OPINION: Vote YES on Amendment 2 on Aug. 4 to expand Medicaid in Missouri

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By DAN SZYMAN
AFGE Local 96 member

Everyone should have affordable health care. It is that simple.

Despite the consistent pleas from Missouri’s Labor, business, medical and faith leaders, our state lawmakers have opposed Medicaid expansion for more than a decade, making Missouri one of only 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid.

In fact, in Missouri our eligibility is so low that a single parent cannot earn more than $4,000 a year – less than $80 a week! –  to qualify for Medicaid, while childless adults are ineligible. This is ridiculous and it’s why I, and so many other Missourians, came together by gathering signatures to put Amendment 2 on the ballot.

I regularly gathered signatures in the hour after my shift before picking up my son from school, knowing that my efforts – our efforts – could finally right this wrong. Missouri voters have earned our chance to vote to expand Medicaid.

On Tuesday, Aug. 4, we will vote “Yes” on Amendment 2 to finally expand coverage to 230,000 Missourians.

WHO WILL BENEFIT?
Just who are these 230,000 Missourians who will benefit from Medicaid expansion?

It includes thousands of uninsured veterans and their families, Missourians nearing retirement but not yet eligible for Medicare, working moms who don’t have access to preventive care, and other hardworking Missourians whose jobs don’t provide health insurance, or who may have lost employer-based coverage in the recent economic downturn.

THE MORAL THING TO DO
Expanding Medicaid is the moral thing to do. My experiences in Army Medicine and working in civilian hospitals have only strengthened my belief in access to healthcare.

As an Army medic, I deployed to Ali al Salem Air Base to treat sick and injured service members. Returning home, I worked as an EMT in local emergency departments while attending the College of Nursing at University of Missouri-Saint Louis.

I now proudly serve other Veterans as a Registered Nurse. I have seen firsthand the difference between getting the proper care when you need it and delaying or ignoring potential problems. No one in our country should be forced to delay necessary treatment because they worry about how to pay for it.

Voting “Yes” on Amendment 2 will benefit Missourians from all walks of life, including veterans for whom VA health benefits are out of reach. The U.S. Government has estimated at least 500,000 veterans are deemed ineligible for medical benefits. Many could be covered by expanding Medicaid. We owe these veterans our support – not just through thank you handshakes and tributes, but by voting “Yes” on 2.

TO HELP UNION MEMBERS IN RURAL MISSOURI
Expanding Medicaid will also aid my union brothers and sisters throughout rural Missouri.

Since 2014, 10 rural Missouri hospitals have been forced to close due to a lack of funds which expanded Medicaid would have provided. This preventable catastrophe has increased transport times for patients and ambulances racing the clock to get life-saving interventions. As a medical professional, this thought alone makes me sick. Medicaid expansion will help keep rural hospitals open and therefore save lives.

Medicaid expansion will make our families healthier, our communities safer, and our economy stronger.

The 230,000 Missourians who will benefit include those serving our communities on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak: essential low-wage workers in grocery stores, delivery drivers, and home health aides in nursing homes, hospitals, and elsewhere.

All Missourians, no matter where we live, the color of our skin, or how much money we make, want – and deserve – to keep our families healthy and safe. Expanding Medicaid is a vital step forward to eliminate deadly disparities and a critical step on our road to economic recovery.

I am a member and shop steward for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 96 and my wife, Emily, is a proud middle school teacher and Missouri National Education Association member. As proud union members, we know the strength and power of working people coming together. We have delivered victories for Missouri families via the ballot initiative by repealing so-called “right-to-work,” raising the minimum wage, and passing CLEAN Missouri. Let’s deliver another victory for the people of Missouri. Join me in voting Yes on Amendment 2 to expand Medicaid on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

(Dan Szyman is a retired Army medic currently working as a union nurse at the St. Louis Veterans Hospital and a shop steward for AFGE Local 96.)

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