Resolute Missourians illuminate human cost of failure to expand Medicaid

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1,500 LUMINARIAS on the steps of the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City illustrate the lives that would be saved every year if legislators fully expanded Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Progress Missouri photo
1,500 LUMINARIAS on the steps of the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City illustrate the lives that would be saved every year if legislators fully expanded Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Progress Missouri photo

Jefferson CityThe failure by Republicans in the Missouri legislature to expand Medicaid for low-wage families, the elderly and disabled – before it adjourned for the year May 17 caused several hundred frustrated citizens to gather on the steps of the state Capitol May 16 to light 1,500 luminaries representing the lives that would be saved annually if Medicaid would have been expended.

Federal funds under Obama Care would have paid for 90 percent of the expansion. About 300,000 Missouri residents with incomes up to 130 percent of the poverty level could have benefited from the expansion.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, organized a coalition of several thousand citizens, hospitals, doctors, business leaders, religious leaders and labor unions to support expansion. He led rallies throughout the state in an effort to gain support. But Republican leaders, who control both houses of the legislature, refused to budge and the measure died without ever being given serious consideration.

"Medicaid Expansion is a moral imperative, and our commitment to this issue will not end with this legislative session,” said Rev. John Bennett of Jefferson City, one of the supporters on the steps of the capitol the night before the legislature adjourned.  

"Since our state motto is, 'The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law,' shouldn't we care about the living conditions of our neighbors?" said Rev. Theresa Danieley of St. Louis.

“For Christians, I believe the answer is a resounding yes. In Matthew 22, Jesus teaches us that the greatest commandments are to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. In the Episcopal Baptismal Covenant, we promise, with God's help, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to respect the dignity of every human being, and to strive for justice and peace," she said.

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine found full Medicaid Expansion would save about 15,000 lives in the first full decade of expansion.

Estimates are that expansion would allow more than 260,000 uninsured Missourians to gain coverage and create more than 24,000 new jobs in Missouri. (This article was prepared with the help of Progress Missouri)

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