By TIM ROWDEN
Festus, MO – In a crowded room at the Disability Resource Association, an agency that assists individuals with disabilities, seniors, and those in need in Jefferson County, John Antonich, a Meatcutters Local 88 retiree from Pevely, described how the lack of Medicaid expansion in Missouri impacts working people.
His daughter, Danielle, a social worker in Perryville, MO, is in the “Medicaid gap.” She and her husband, like 300,000 other Missourians, make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for the subsidies offered by the Affordable Care Act. Their employers offer them no health coverage.
They are raising seven children – three of their own and four special needs children whom they adopted.
“What’s going to happen to my daughter and her husband if a critical illness hits them with seven children to raise?” Antonich asked.
For the past two years, the Republican-controlled legislature has refused to consider Medicaid expansion for Missouri, a program that would be 100 percent funded by the federal government in the first year and 90 percent covered in the following years.
The Feb. 7 meeting, organized by Missouri Jobs with Justice, Missouri Healthcare for All and the Missouri Medicaid Coalition, focused on the real cost to working people and the state for failing to expand Medicaid.
“Missouri has sat on the sidelines while 29 other states have expanded Medicaid eligibility, when there are so many people we could help,” Antonich said. “I think it’s a shame. I think it’s a moral issue.”
Jessica Adams, of the Missouri Budget Project, gave an eye-opening presentation on expanding Medicaid and accessing federal dollars would actually save the state millions – $81 million initially, and up to $100 million per year – money that can be used for education or other services.
That’s because the federal government would pick up many costs the state is currently paying through its existing Medicaid program, expansion would actually save the state money because the federal government would pick up 90 percent of the total cost, rather than the current 60/40 rate.
“Other states are benefiting from the expansion of Medicaid,” Adams said. “And Missouri would too.”
HELP PEOPLE HELP THEMSELVES
Roger Horn, president of the Arnold Food Pantry Board of directors, said expanding Medicaid would go a long way toward helping the 150 families the food pantry helps every week.
“The typical people that I see coming into the food pantry are people with some kind of developmental disability. They want to work, but they’re unable to work. They’re people in their 50s who have been laid-off, can’t get work and are two young for a pension. It’s people that life jumped up and kicked in the face. If we could get this passed, it would help the people that we help through the food pantry, because they would have more money to spend on necessities.”
In Jefferson County alone, there are more than 10,000 people – including more than 500 veterans – who would qualify if the Missouri legislature expanded Medicaid eligibility.
Organizers urged those in attendance, and all Missouri residents, to call and write to their state representatives and senators to urge passage of expansion, write letters to the editors of local newspapers and attend a Close the Coverage Gap Day of Action in Jefferson City.
There are several Days of Action planned in the coming weeks. For more information, visit the Missouri Medicaid Coalition at www.momedicaidcoalition.org.