ST. LOUIS – A brain trust of black health care professionals who gathered here last year marked Medicaid expansion as the answer to restoring health insurance to thousands who simply can’t afford it.
It now appears that a ballot initiative to put Medicaid expansion in the hands of voters is promising. Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican, has indicated that if the voters approved of expansion he would sign it into law. But that doesn’t give much footing to the possibility of its actually expanding.
Parson’s gubernatorial rival Nicole Galloway, a Democrat, recently took to Twitter, opposing his position that Missouri can’t afford to expand Medicaid and that she is the one who could be trusted to actually sign expansion into law.
“We have to be pragmatic,” Dr. Will Ross maintained at the discussion, held last summer at Better Family Life in Hamilton Heights. Ross is a professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology and director of Washington University’s School of Medicine Diversity Program.
Ross explained that in order to win Medicaid expansion – in effect sustaining the Affordable Care Act – Democrats have to build their numbers in the state and national government, including the executive branches.
To Ross’ point, in February 2014, the state Senate defeated an effort to expand Medicaid in Missouri.
“The expansion of Medicaid could have remedied the ACA,” said Carl Green, of People’s Family of Corporations, which includes Betty Jean Kerr Peoples Health Centers, Amanda Luckett Mercy Hopewell Centers and Peoples Community Action Corporation.
Galloway has come out on Twitter this month in favor of expansion. She began her post by saying:
“Gov. Parson insists that we can’t afford to expand Medicaid, which would give nearly a quarter-million working Missourians access to healthcare. After the Missouri Budget Project released a study about its effect on our budget this week, I want to set the record straight.”
According to the MBP report, “Medicaid Expansion: A Good Deal for the State Budge,” released last month, expanding the state- and federally funded health care program would save the state money and spur new taxes.
Galloway explained how expanding Medicare would lower Missouri’s ante and up that of the federal government. She said:
It expands the federal share, up to 90 percent, for a number of procedures for the current Medicaid insured patients.
It expands the Missourians who are eligible, by 200,000, who can get insurance through Medicaid. For the 200,000 newly eligible Missourians, Missouri pays for only 10 percent of the cost of any covered medical procedures.
This means that Missouri taxpayer’s dollars, Galloway explained, will stay in Missouri rather than paying for health care in other states.
Citing the MBP report, Galloway gave an example, posting:
Today MO covers 35 percent of the cost of a pregnant woman’s care; under the Medicaid expansion MO would only pay 10 percent for eligible pregnant women. The Mo Budget Project estimates that this would cover 20K.
Today, in Missouri, nearly 1,500 women on Medicaid have breast or cervical cancer, and the state covers 35 percent of their care. Under Expansion, Missouri would cover 10 percent, resulting in a $7.8 M/year savings for Missouri taxpayers.
In addition, we could see major savings from Missourians who are disabled. The Missouri Budget Project suggests these folks getting coverage under Medicaid expansion would likely save taxpayers more than $150M each year.
Overall, she posted that the MBP estimated that expansion would result in more than $100 million in general revenue savings and new revenue for Missouri.
She added that the increase in the general budget would ultimately make funds available for other priorities such as education.
“Not only is it important for our people that we care for to move forward with Medicaid expansion, it is also important for creating jobs and maintaining the quality of health care that we want to provide to our patients,” said Catherine R. Jamerson, Health Policy Leader for the St. Louis Black Nurses Association and board member of the Missouri Organization of Nurse Leaders.
“Missourians want Medicaid expansion,” Galloway said, “and I am committed to getting it done because I believe every person deserves access to quality, affordable health care. As governor, I will expand Medicaid without raising taxes or raiding other accounts – all while saving our state money.”
As a mother, she said, she knows that “parents just want to able able to take care of their kids. In Missouri, 100,000 kids have been dropped from their health care without warning or reason, leaving too many parents feeling like they failed their children. But they didn’t – Governor Parson and his insiders did.”
Parson did not return an email for comment.