Jefferson City – Working Missourians by the hundreds, community activists and religious leaders crowded into the State Capitol March 19 to call for an open debate on Medicaid expansion – something Republican leaders have called a non-starter.
The group, wearing red shirts, chanting “This is what Democracy looks like” and holding signs demanding the Legislature “have the debate,” crowded the hallways circling the Senate chamber and delayed the start of session by about an hour.
Alex Stuckey of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported after the Senate started session, a couple of lawmakers addressed the protesters and called for a legislative debate on expansion.
Sen. Paul LeVota (D-Independence) said protesters were “frustrated” lawmakers weren't listening to them.
For the past two-and-a-half years, the Legislature has refused to consider Medicaid expansion for Missouri, a program that would be 100 percent funded by the federal government and provide health care to 300,000 low-paid working Missourians as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Their obfuscation on the issue has left 300,000 Missourians trapped in the “Coverage Gap” – earning too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to qualify for the subsidies offered by the Affordable Care Act.
The Republican-controlled Missouri Legislature has refused top consider expansion, even though the program would be 100 percent funded by the federal government in the first year and 90 percent covered in the following years.
Many of those left without coverage are working Missourians, homecare workers, restaurant servers, retail workers, childcare providers, and even some teachers.
The sad irony is that Missouri could actually save money by expanding its Medicaid program.
Jessica Adams, of the Missouri Budget Project says Missouri would save about $81 million initially and up to $100 million a year by accessing the federal dollars.
That’s because the federal government would pick up many costs the state is currently paying through its existing Medicaid program – covering 90 percent of the total cost, rather than the current 60/40 rate.
The expansion issue isn’t entirely partisan.
Sen. Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City), who supports expansion, used a bill that would provide subsidizes for dairy farmers to point out the hypocrisy of not talking about Medicaid.
Silvey called the dairy bill “Obamacows,” and chided legislators for refusing to have a policy debate on Medicaid while approving a bill that uses “tax dollars to subsidize a program created under the Obama administration – for cows.”