By TIM ROWDEN
Missouri Organized Labor leaders and frontline healthcare workers came together at Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 hall in St. Louis to support the Yes on Amendment 2 Missouri Medicaid expansion vote on Aug. 4.
Expanding Medicaid will help about 230,000 hardworking Missourians who make too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to afford private insurance –– delivering healthcare to individuals who earn less than $18,000 a year while bringing more than $1 billion of taxes Missouri residents are already paying home from Washington, rather than leaving it to be distributed to states like California, Arkansas, Indiana and New York that have already expanded Medicaid coverage.
Passage of Amendment 2 will protect frontline healthcare jobs, help keep endangered rural hospitals open, ensure all Missourians have access to emergency care, and create on average more than 16,000 jobs annually in the program’s first five years, including jobs in the construction industry.
“First and foremost, it’s the right thing to do,” said Missouri AFL-CIO President Jake Hummel, an IBEW Local 1 electrician and former state legislator. “It’s the right thing to provide health insurance to those people that need it. It’s one of our most basic human rights. Missouri’s unions are proud to stand behind an initiative that will provide thousands of hardworking Missourians with access to healthcare while also boosting our economy and protecting jobs for essential frontline workers.”
ENDORSED BY MORE THAN 300 ORGANIZATIONS
The state AFL-CIO joins more than 300 organizations that have endorsed Amendment 2, including:
- AARP, the nation’s leading advocacy organization for those age 50 and older.
- The Missouri Chamber of Commerce, as well as the St. Louis and Kansas City chambers.
- The Missouri NAACP.
- The American Heart Association.
- The state’s primary emergency medical services (EMS) organizations, including the Ambulance District Association of Missouri; the Missouri Ambulance Association; and the Missouri Emergency Medical Services Association.
- 13 national patient advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association and American Lung Association.
“The Missouri AFL-CIO is proud to be part of this unprecedented coalition that’s come together in support of Medicaid expansion,” Hummel said. “This is a coalition that transcends party politics, racial lines, the rural-urban split and other labels that divide.
“Our state’s failure to expand Medicaid is hurting families, it’s causing rural hospitals to close and it’s increasing healthcare costs. It needs to change.
“In my 10 years as a state lawmakers in Jefferson City, I watched my colleagues time and again fail to do the right thing,” Hummel said. “Now it’s time for Missouri voters to decide.”
16,000 JOBS A YEAR
An independent study by economic analysts on behalf of the Missouri Foundation for Health projects Medicaid expansion in Missouri will create more than 16,000 jobs annually in the program’s first five years, with nearly 80 percent of the job growth outside of the healthcare industry.
On a yearly average, according to the study, Missouri would see:
- A $2.5 billion increase in economic output.
- A $1.6 billion boost in gross domestic product.
- $1.1 billion growth in average
personal income – an extra $500 on average for each Missouri household.
$1 BILLION IN ANNUAL SAVINGS
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis determined Medicaid expansion will save Missouri more than $1 billion annually by 2026 by bringing tax dollars back from Washington and reducing many of the healthcare costs the state of Missouri currently pays.
37 OTHER STATES HAVE EXPANDED MEDICAID
Missouri would join 37 other states that have expanded Medicaid, including neighboring Arkansas, which has used the savings from Medicaid expansion to cut taxes; and Oklahoma, where voters approved Medicaid expansion last month.
“Our tax dollars are already being used to cover Medicaid expansion in more than three dozen states, including places like California and New York,” said St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White. “It’s time to bring our billions of federal tax dollars home to Missouri where they belong.
“For over a decade, Missouri politicians have refused to act,” White said. “Our membership is ready to vote Yes on Amendment 2 on Tuesday, Aug. 4. The time for action is now.”
A HUMAN RIGHT
Oluwadamini Melvin, secretary-treasurer of CWA Local 6355, works in the Family Support Division of Missouri’s Department of Social Services processing Medicaid applications.
He sees firsthand on a daily basis what Missouri’s current narrow Medicaid threshold does to parents who make too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage for themselves and their children but earn too little to afford insurance in the private marketplace.
“Accessible and affordable medical coverage is a human right,” Melvin said. “The lack of people having access and being able to afford that is a human rights violation. There are many families and single parents that are going without Medicaid coverage right now in the state of Missouri. We have to basically tell them that they don’t qualify. How can single parents adequately take care of their children if they are sick or have health issues if they don’t have coverage?”
Missouri was facing a healthcare crisis long before the COVID-19 pandemic, says Shunda Whitfield, a certified nursing assistant and member of SEIU Healthcare Missouri.
“For me, the fight for Medicaid expansion is a personal one,” Whitfield said. “Some of our elderly people have to decide whether they’re going to eat or get medication. We have low income families in which the children can go to the doctor but the parents are just left out there to fend for themselves.”
Another factor frequently overlooked, Whitfield says, is the impact lack of coverage has on the mentally ill.
“If they can’t go and get assistance, then we have more crime out here, we have more suicides,” Whitfield said. “I think it’s really important to vote for Amendment 2 so we can help some of the people that may be lost.”
EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ACCESS
Dan Szyman, a veteran and ex-Army medic who now works as a nurse at the VA Hospital in St. Louis and is a shop steward for the American Federation of Government Employees Local 96, sees daily how access to coverage can save lives and improve the quality of lives.
“Being a veteran and serving veterans at the local veterans hospital, I’ve seen how great access to care is and how people can get treatments in time to save their lives, to extend their lives, increase their quality of life and save money in the long run,” Szyman said.
“But there are a lot of veterans that can’t get that care and people who can’t afford healthcare who can’t get that care. These are some of the poorest people in our state and we can’t give them access to something that I believe is a right. Everyone should have access to preventable care.”