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In break from party norm, Republican senator holds town hall pushing for Medicaid expansion

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

A Republican state senator joined the Missouri Hospital Association for a telephone town hall meeting Tuesday night to try and garner support for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.  

Senator Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) advocated for two proposals he has introduced to the legislature. The first one, SB 287, would cover additional veterans and their families under Medicaid. The other bill, SB 419, proposes accepting federal funds to cover more people under Missouri’s Medicaid program. A joint committee of ten lawmakers would determine eligibility requirements and seek cost saving measures within MO HealthNet, according to the bill’s text.

Read more about Silvey’s proposal to expand Medicaid to veterans here.

In contrast to other forms of Medicaid expansion, SB 419 would create a separate trust fund for Missouri’s Medicaid program through MO HealthNet. If the fund became insolvent, no money would be transferred from the state’s general revenue, Silvey said.  

Listeners on the town-hall telephone call aired concerns about the cost of health care and insurance, as well as the financial hit that Missouri hospitals have taken without the expansion of Medicaid. One caller asked how Silvey would get a conservative state to accept his proposal when the Affordable Care Act has been so unpopular among Republicans.

“I’m trying to find reforms that are acceptable to everyone, and also close the coverage gap, as opposed to just throwing up my hands and saying I hate Obamacare,” Silvey said.

MHA president Herb Kuhn said legislators need to reach a consensus.

“Thirty-seven percent of residents in this state live in rural parts of Missouri. We know they travel greater distances to access health care services. But if you lose a hospital in the community, like we lost two last year, those services are not coming back. Those hospitals are not going to come back,” Kuhn said.

Listeners left upwards of 200 voicemail comments, according to moderator Mary Becker of the Missouri Hospital Association.

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