OPINION: Amendment 2 is critical for all of Missouri’s working families

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BY RICHARD VON GLAHN
Missouri Jobs with Justice Voter Action

The COVID-19 Pandemic has caused massive job losses throughout much of the economy. In April, the national unemployment rate shot up to above 10 percent for the first time in over a decade.

Here in Missouri, the jobless rate has nearly tripled since the pandemic struck in March, closely mirroring national trends.

Entire industries, including the heavily unionized entertainment and professional sports, have been largely shuttered since March. The gradual reopenings of events and entertainment are sure to leave many workers — such as the union members who work in concessions, guest support, and building services — without their regular income for months to come.

ESSENTIAL WORKER
For those who have been deemed essential during this time, the pandemic has caused different, but no less severe, strain and hardship.

Workers in fields like retail, health care, logistics, and public service are compelled to continue working every day, coming into contact with the public without adequate personal protective equipment or paid medical leave to be able to continue to make ends meet while being able to keep themselves, their families and all of us safe. Many of the workers in these industries, particularly those working without the protection, safety, and benefits union membership provides, also lack health coverage.

As coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country, anxiety about health and the economy have become major and intertwined topics of discussion both in public forums and at dinner tables throughout our state. For many the pain caused by the sudden and dramatic loss of work is deepened not only by the uncertainty of future income, but also by the sudden loss of health coverage for their families.

LOSS OF INCOME AND HEALTH COVERAGE
According to a recent Families USA study, a staggering 5.4 million workers lost their health insurance from February to May of this year. This marks the largest annual increase in loss of coverage ever recorded — 1.5 million more workers lost health coverage, so far during this pandemic, than during the recession of 2008-09. Still more troubling are economic reports that suggest we likely have not yet hit bottom.

In Missouri, an alarming 17 percent of non-elderly adults are currently uninsured. Meanwhile, the pandemic and its associated job loss is forcing many working people in our state and across the country to make impossible choices.

A recent Washington University study found that U.S. households reported an over 100 percent increase in putting off medical care due to the economic uncertainty from COVID 19. When workers delay seeking preventive care or cut back on routine treatments due to cost, minor illnesses can easily develop into life-threatening conditions that require serious medical intervention to correct. In a time of a health pandemic, the last thing we need is for anyone to delay going to the doctor or a health clinic when they feel sick.

SAFETY NET
Amendment 2 will expand Medicaid to 230,000 Missourians. This will go a long way to address challenges our state and neighbors have faced even before our current public health and economic crisis. For those facing the loss of health care coverage due to this economic crisis, Amendment 2 provides a vital safety net.

In fact, states that have already done the right thing and expanded their Medicaid programs have seen half as many of their unemployed become uninsured.

To put it simply, if you live in Missouri or one of the other 12 states who have not provided for its resident by expanding Medicaid, losing your job due to the economic downturn leaves you twice as likely to also lose all access to health coverage.

JOB CREATION
Studies also show that Amendment 2 will create over 16,000 permanent jobs, protecting nurses and doctors, as well as building trades members who build and repair our rural hospitals.

For low-wage frontline workers who are unable to afford health insurance, Amendment 2 provides a lifeline for the health of them and their families.

Whether we live in urban centers or rural towns, Medicaid expansion means healthier, safer, and more secure communities by expanding health care coverage, creating and protecting jobs and bringing our tax dollars home to invest in our local health care systems and other community priorities.

On Aug. 4th we have a tremendous opportunity to provide a crucial lifeline to our state’s working families by expanding Medicaid.

After years of hard work, it’s time for us to use our power as voters, put our values into action, and claim our victory. On Tuesday, Aug. 4, we will come together to vote YES on Amendment 2 to begin to ease some of these challenges for our Missouri neighbors. Please join me in voting YES on Amendment 2!

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