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Missouri Chamber Endorses Bill Expanding Medicaid To Low-Income Workers

A doctor's stethoscope
(Via Flickr/Rosemary)
(Via Flickr/Rosemary)
A doctor's stethoscope

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce is lauding a new proposal to expand Medicaid. The business group says it would allow Missouri to take advantage of the $2 billion a year in federal subsidies that it currently has declined to accept.

The chamber says the proposal, filed by state Rep. Noel Torpey, R-Independence, would increase the state’s eligibility standards for Medicaid to cover working adults who earn less than the federal poverty level, which is now $11,670 a year for a single person. Missouri currently provides Medicaid coverage only to adults who earn no more than 19 percent of the federal poverty level.

“We urge lawmakers to consider this legislation, not only for the thousands of additional Missourians that we would be able to help by securing billions in federal funding,” said Missouri Chamber President/CEO Daniel P. Mehan in a statement.  “But also to help us keep the doors open in the health-care facilities of our rural and urban communities, which, quite frankly, have been put in jeopardy" by the Affordable Care Act.

Mehan noted that the Affordable Care Act recommends that states expand Medicaid to all Americans earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Under the act, the federal government pays all the expansion costs for the first three years and at least 90 percent thereafter.

But in exchange, the federal government plans to end the special payments given to hospitals for caring for uninsured patients. Some Missouri hospitals may be in danger of closing if they lose the federal aid and the state fails to expand Medicaid.

The details of Torpey’s new bill, HB1901, were not displayed on the General Assembly’s bill-tracking site late Wednesday. 

For more than a year, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has pressed the Republican-controlled General Assembly to approve Medicaid expansion.  So far, Republicans have objected to the idea on fiscal and philosophical grounds.

Without Medicaid expansion, Democrats have said that several hundred thousand Missourians will be left without insurance. Those who would qualify for expanded Medicaid do not qualify for the federal subsidies for people who purchase health insurance on the federal or state exchanges.

Mehan said Missouri's failure to expand Medicaid is hurting businesses.

“We know that employers, who pay for the majority of private health insurance, are going to be the hardest hit,” Mehan said. “We can’t afford to shift billions of dollars annually onto our health-care systems and job creators. That’s why we are pushing so strongly for this compromise.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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