With one week to go before Missouri’s primary election, faith and civic leaders gathered Tuesday in Springfield to urge voters to say “yes” to two ballot issues. One would expand Medicaid in Missouri, and the other would impose a $5000 annual fee on new short-term loan businesses in the city of Springfield.
Leaders from Baptist, Methodist and non-denominational church groups said their faith compels them to act justly. They said the working poor currently don’t have a way to pay for health care and that what they call “predatory lending” traps people in a cycle of debt.
Rev. Tracey Wolff is with The Field Campus Ministry and is a member of Pitts Chapel.
“I think that what’s kind of on my heart today are the words that are part of my tradition as a Methodist, and those words are “do no harm.” It’s a big part—it’s one of the three rules as a United Methodist. And as I think about what I’ve heard today and what I’ve learned about both of these issues, if we don’t do something, we are doing harm,” said Wolff.
The group is part of Faith Voices of Southwest Missouri, a grassroots, faith-based organization that works for economic dignity, racial equality, fair access to opportunities and inter-faith cooperation for all.
Victoria Altic, who spoke at Tuesday’s event, is a single mother of two in Springfield who said her family has struggled to find affordable health insurance. Her 12-year-old daughter’s congenital disorder requires medication that costs around $3000 a month.
Her daughter lost healthcare coverage for almost a year, and Altic incurred thousands of dollars in medical debt. They were turned away from the doctor’s office due to inability to pay.
“I watched helplessly as her growth came to a halt, and her health worsened,” said Altic.
Her daughter has since regained healthcare coverage and treatment, but Altic still can’t afford health insurance for herself.
CoxHealth president and CEO Steve Edwards said expanding the Medicaid program would help the working poor, many of which are the essential workers who are serving the state during the pandemic. Edwards said Missouri is already sending billions of tax dollars to Washington as required by the Affordable Care Act. Passage of Medicaid expansion, he said, would bring that money back to Missouri and allow a family of three making greater than 21 percent of poverty—or $4,479 per year—to qualify for coverage.
He said Medicaid expansion would have a positive economic impact, as shown by more than two dozen studies.
“It creates jobs, and it takes care of our most vulnerable population, and a reminder that those people making between $4400 a year for a family of three and up to 138 percent (of the federal poverty level), they're most likely the essential workers--the people who have been fighting this disease, the people who have been putting themselves in harm's way,” he said.
In the first year that Montana expanded Medicaid, according to Edwards, the state saw a $50 billion positive impact. Virginia had a $400 million positive economic impact the first year, he said. Edwards explained that the Affordable Care Act put a series of taxes in place, which Missouri residents have been paying since its enactment. Because the state has chosen not to expand Medicaid, Edwards said the state has turned away about $8 billion of that tax revenue. Ninety percent of Medicaid expansion would be paid for by the federal government and 10 percent by the state.
Click here to read a study on the projected fiscal impact of Medicaid expansion in Missouri that was done by Washington University.