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Pro Medicaid Campaign Kicks Off in Springfield

From L-R: Susan Hinck, Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance; Ron Martin, Southwest Center for Independent Living volunteer; Leslie

Community leaders say your voice is key in convincing Missouri lawmakers to back Medicaid expansion.

Among the speakers Friday at Southwest Center for Independent Living in Springfield was Matthew Patterson with Missouri ProVote. He says they’re preparing to send letters to Missouri’s budget committee, recommending the inclusion of Medicaid expansion.

“Not only is it not a rural or urban thing, it’s not a Democratic or Republican thing. It’s a Missouri thing. I can’t reiterate enough. This is good for all Missourians. Not only people, this is good for our businesses, this is good for our economy,” Patterson said.

Patterson was joined by Southwest Center’s Leslie Clary, volunteer Ron Martin, and Susan Hinck of the Missouri Health Advocacy Alliance, who together echoed their support for the expansion.  The group cited estimates that the initiative would allow more than 250,000 uninsured Missourians to gain coverage and create more than 24,000 new jobs in the state, figures Governor Nixon eluded to when first expressing support for the measure in December.

But Republicans in Missouri’s House and Senate have been critical of the plan, including House Speaker Tim Jones, who has called the expansion economically reckless and unsustainable into the future.

Clark Brown is with Service Employees International Union. He told the panel that lawmakers need to put partisan differences aside and do what’s best for Missouri.

“Access to health care means a better country, means a health country, it means a better educated country. It means less attention and need from the government to take care of folks that need that kind of support,” said Brown.

States may decide whether they will accept federal funds to allow families and individuals making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to receive Medicaid.

In the case of 62-year-old Ron Martin, when his health declined in his late 50s he was placed in a nursing home, where Medicaid paid the bill. Upon his release, his cost became nearly $800 a month, more than half his monthly Social Security allotment.

“I don’t think people like myself are asking for a free ride. But again, like I said, I don’t think anybody believes that they should pay half of their income just for the medical insurance. So the way that I understand this bill, is that if it would go into effect, I’d still be paying like normal people, but it would me between $150 and $200 a month. Something that would be affordable for people,” Martin said.

Matthew Patterson notes that the expansion would include 60,000 southwest Missourians. According to the Missouri Medicaid Coalition, 877,000 in the state currently don’t have any health insurance at all.