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Report: MO Can't Afford Not to Expand Medicaid

PHOTO: While some Missouri lawmakers continue to insist the state can't afford to expand its Medicaid program, the authors of a new report say the state can't afford not to take advantage of the savings the expansion would bring. Photo credit: Katherine Dowler/Wikimedia Commons.
PHOTO: While some Missouri lawmakers continue to insist the state can't afford to expand its Medicaid program, the authors of a new report say the state can't afford not to take advantage of the savings the expansion would bring. Photo credit: Katherine Dowler/Wikimedia Commons.
January 14, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Missouri lawmakers are back at work, and after a contentious battle in 2014, advocates for Medicaid expansion in the state hope a new report will help provide the fuel to make it happen in 2015.

Last year, some lawmakers resisted the expansion, claiming it would be too costly. But Traci Gleason, communications director for the Missouri Budget Project, said her group's new analysis shows that expanding Medicaid would free up $81 million in state funds almost immediately - and eventually, more than $100 million per year.

"That's money that can be used to fully fund the K-12 education formula," she said, "or other services that were cut during the Great Recession."

An estimated 260,000 uninsured Missourians would be eligible for Medicaid if the program were expanded to cover individuals making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, an option available to states under the Affordable Care Act. The full report is available on the Missouri Budget Project website.

If Medicaid is expanded, the federal government would pick up most of the tab for expenses the state currently shoulders, including care for low-income pregnant women, mental-health patients and prisoners. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the costs through 2016 and 90 percent in the following years. Gleason said that doesn't include other aspects of the expansion.

"We still come out better off than we are today," she said, "and that doesn't account for any of the increased economic activity: the increased health-care jobs, construction, everything that would result from that infusion of federal funds."

Some conservative lawmakers have taken the view that the federal government can't be trusted to follow through on its promises, and have proposed reforming the state's Medicaid program rather than expanding it. However, Gleason said Missouri now can see the results and experiences of other states as proof that Medicaid expansion can be successful.

The report is online at mobudget.org.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MO