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Star: "Missouri...Should Expand Medicaid"

This weekend in The Star

Right now, it is nearly impossible for low-income workers in Missouri and Kansas to obtain health insurance if their employers don’t provide it. Both states have very low Medicaid eligibility limits. People go without care, use free health clinics, or use hospital emergency rooms.

The economic and moral reasons to expand Medicaid are compelling.

The federal government would pay all of the costs of the expansion for three years, and never less than 90 percent. Expansions of health care systems would create thousands of jobs and a huge economic development boost. Some populations who use state aid, such as the mentally ill, would be brought under the Medicaid umbrella, saving states money. People would be healthier and more financially secure.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon intends to include the Medicaid expansion in his budget but will face opposition from the legislature. In Kansas, neither Brownback nor legislative leaders have said how they intend to proceed.

Hospitals, citizens and states’ economies will suffer if leaders allow an antipathy toward all things “Obamacare” to deny the benefits of health security.

A more rational argument holds that states will be left with massive expenses if the federal government reneges on its commitment to bear at least 90 percent of the cost of the expanded caseload. But basing a decision on a hypothetical scenario with no precedent isn’t smart public policy.

Many states balked at joining the original Medicaid program in the 1960s, but within four years all but two had come aboard as citizens and elected officials saw the benefits other states were reaping.

The offer for 100 percent federal financing of the cost of state Medicaid expansions runs out in 2017. Leaders in Missouri and Kansas must seize a unique opportunity to repair a broken system that currently leaves hundreds of thousands of people in both states without a way to be well. If they don’t, the problems created by uninsured patients will only get worse.



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