By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS – House Democrats have finally made their play for expanded Medicaid in Missouri, claiming that not accepting the increased federal funds could cause some rural hospitals to close.
House Bill 627, sponsored by House Minority Leader Jacob Hummel and co-sponsored by practically the rest of the Democratic House contingent, would allow the state to take the expanded Medicaid funding provided by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
“If we do not pass this expansion, if we do not work to create these jobs, we not only will fail to create 24,000 jobs, we will lose up to 5,000 jobs in this state,” Hummel said. “It is not just expansion, it is job retention.”
Hummel said many of those job losses would come from the health-care industry and that hospitals, especially smaller ones, are struggling to deal with the lower payments they receive from the uninsured. He said giving Medicaid to more Missourians would lower the amount of uncompensated care.
Don’t expect much action on that bill, as the GOP is dead-set against expanding Medicaid in the Show Me State.
Rep. Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood, the chief budget writer in the House, released his version of the fiscal year 2014 state budget last week, excluding the money that Gov. Jay Nixon had put in for the Medicaid expansion.
“Nine hundred and eight million dollars of federal money for Medicaid expansion is out of the budget, along with the $46 million that the governor had in his budget for savings and (general revenue) generated by the Medicaid expansion,” Stream said.
The pair said they champion improvements over expansion.
“You will find us supporting reform of the Medicaid system so it encourages smart health choices, expands access to doctors for patients and reins in the amount the public has to finance the program.”
Nixon continued his tour of the state Wednesday to push for his proposal. He planned a stop at the Ozarks Small Business Incubator in West Plains.
The governor has said the state could reap $5.7 million in federal health-care money and provide coverage to an additional 300,000 Missourians in the first three years if it agrees to raise the plan threshold to those making 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Eligibility in Missouri is now 19 percent of the federal level, after the Missouri General Assembly pulled back on Medicaid coverage several years ago.
The state would not have to pay anything the first three years, but would begin paying a small share that would increase to 10 percent of the cost beginning in 2020.
The state GOP contingent is doubtful the federal government will keep its Medicaid promises. Hummel’s bill puts in place a provision that would peel back the state’s commitment if Congress eliminates the expansion.
Missouri’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill recently weighed in on the issue, arguing that the rural constituents of the state’s Republican legislators could greatly benefit from the increased coverage.
“I think they are so caught up with this notion that Obamacare is political nitroglycerin that they are willing to overlook the good that the Medicaid expansion will do for the people they represent,” said McCaskill, one of the biggest congressional proponents for the ACA.