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Proposal Would Expand Medicaid To Military Vets In Missouri

State Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, proposes to expand Medicaid to military vets currently ineligible for coverage.
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio

A Republican member of the Missouri Senate is proposing expanding Medicaid to military veterans who are currently ineligible.

Last year, state Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, put together an alternative Medicaid proposal that would have combined expansion with various reforms, but it went nowhere. Silvey said his new bill, which he expects to file Wednesday, would make veterans earning between 19 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level eligible for Medicaid.

"If we can't solve the whole problem, let's solve a piece of it," Silvey told reporters Tuesday.  "I did not want to leave (veterans) high and dry when those (Medicaid) bills probably get filibustered and probably die on the floor of the Senate…. I wanted to offer an opportunity for this body to address specifically this question on whether or not the state should take care of these veterans."

Silvey says in addition to military vets, his bill would provide health coverage for about 22,000 spouses.

Fellow Republican RobSchaaf of St. Joseph, a strong opponent of Medicaid expansion, doesn't think the proposal is doable.

"This bill would just give a certain select group of people Medicaid, based upon whether or not you're lucky enough to be married to a veteran," Schaaf said.  "That's no way to do public policy."

Schaaf added that he thinks Silvey's bill could be unconstitutional, saying it would give "special benefits to a select group of people."

"It seems to me that (Silvey) may just be trying to sort of pit those of us who are more conservative against the veteran(s)," Schaaf said.

Republican leaders in the Missouri House and Senate have strongly opposed Medicaid expansion since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act constitutional.  That same ruling, however, gave states the option of expanding Medicaid instead of requiring it.  Several Missouri GOP lawmakers have specifically cited the 1o percent cost share Missouri would have to pay down the road, saying it would not be affordable.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.