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Despite Long Odds, Advocates Continue Push For Medicaid Expansion

Richard von Glahn explains the plan to canvass in House Speaker John Diehl's district as Judith Parker and Andrew Westbrook look on.
Camille Phillips | St.Louis Public Radio

Advocates continue to push for the expansion of Medicaid to include Missourians who fall in the so-called “coverage gap.”

Because Missouri has so far opted out of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, thousands of Missourians fall into a gap -- they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for federal aid on the healthcare exchange.

State legislators have made it clear that expansion is unlikely to happen this year either.

But Medicaid advocate Richard von Glahn remains optimistic.

“I don’t know how you can look at the faces and listen to the stories of the people in the Medicaid gap and not know that we can win this fight when so many other states have,” Von Glahn said, noting that some Republican-led states have expanded Medicaid.

Von Glahn helped organize a statewide push over the weekend promoting Medicaid expansion. Canvassers in 23 locations throughout the state passed out flyers that told the stories of people who are uninsured because they can’t afford coverage.

The canvassers targeted the districts of key state legislators in the hope that constituents will help convince their elected officials to take up the issue once more.

Von Glahn, who is organizing director for Missouri Jobs with Justice, said that about 5,000 flyers were split between the districts of Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Glendale) and House Speaker John Diehl (R-Town and Country) in St. Louis County, Sen. Paul Wieland (R-Imperial) in Jefferson County and Sen. Tom Dempsey (R-St. Charles) and Sen. Bob Onder (R-Lake St. Louis) in St. Charles County.

“We think they’re all key players in this debate. Important people who need to focus on the faces of the people who are in the Medicaid gap,” von Glahn said.

Medicaid expansion advocates stopped for a photo before splitting into small groups to canvass House Speaker John Diehl's district on January 31, 2015.
Credit Camille Phillips | St.Louis Public Radio
Medicaid expansion advocates stopped for a photo before splitting into small groups to canvass House Speaker John Diehl's district on January 31, 2015.

Judith Parker was one of a dozen people who passed out flyers in Diehl’s west St. Louis County district on Saturday. She said that she continues to push for Medicaid expansion even though the odds are against it because “you never know what will happen. If we don’t try, it will never happen. If we stay silent, it will be forgotten.”

Parker, who is a consultant for Missouri Alliance for Retired Americans, said she doesn’t see Medicaid expansion as a political issue.

“I consider it a moral issue that we take care of people without healthcare,” Parker said, “We’re paying for it anyway. If we can go back to the preventative side it will be much cheaper.”

As the new house speaker, Diehl has made it clear that Medicaid expansion is not on his agenda.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.