Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri House Panel Hears Fiscal and Moral Arguments for Medicaid Expansion

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri House Panel Hears Fiscal and Moral Arguments for Medicaid Expansion

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY * Jamie Kanan, 29, of Potosi, works as a home health aide, helping elderly and disabled people with their meals, medications and transportation to doctor's appointments.

But her job doesn't provide health insurance, and the $485 she makes every two weeks including a little money from working Friday nights at a local auction puts her above the state's cutoff for Medicaid.

"I work, I try hard and I'm doing everything I can to get by," the divorced mother of five told a House committee Tuesday. "It's not fair that I can't get help."

The Republican-led Missouri Legislature has repeatedly rejected adding about 300,000 low-income adults to the Medicaid rolls, as envisioned by the federal Affordable Care Act.

Critics say they don't trust the federal government to pay what it has promised the full tab for new participants the first three years and 90 percent of the cost after that. They also say the state can't afford to expand the program, which currently covers 828,478 Missourians at a cost of about $9 billion in federal and state funds.

Tuesday's hearing was the first chance this year for proponents of expansion to have their say. Their pitches to the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee focused on moral as well as fiscal reasons.

Brendan Cossette, a lobbyist for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said expanding Medicaid would bring $2.2 billion a year in federal funds to Missouri. The money would shore up hospitals that are slated to lose federal funds they now receive to cover uninsured patients.

"Hospitals are going to have to recoup those costs one way or the other," Cossette said.

Others said providing health care would allow people to work rather than go on disability.

Without Medicaid expansion, most of Missouri's poorest, working- age residents those under age 65 and below the poverty line of $11,490 for an individual and $15,510 for a couple fall in a coverage gap.

They can't get free or low-cost health coverage through Medicaid. Nor can they get federal tax credits to help pay for private insurance.

The tax credits go to people who make between the poverty level and four times that amount. …

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