Gov. Jay Nixon today visited Hannibal Regional Hospital to discuss the benefits of his plan to bring the dollars Missourians send to Washington back to strengthen Medicaid in Missouri, as well as the costs of sending these dollars to other states. The Governor's proposal would bring $5.7 billion to Missouri and provide health coverage to an additional 300,000 Missourians over the next three years - at no cost to the state.
"Across Missouri, non-partisan business groups, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, are supporting our effort to strengthen Medicaid. For these leaders, it's a business decision. They understand that bringing the dollars Missourians send to Washington back home to protect taxpayers, create jobs, and reward work, is good for our economy," Gov. Nixon said. "They also understand that sending these dollars to other states will mean more crowded emergency rooms, higher costs for families and businesses, and fewer jobs in our communities. That is why we must move forward now."
Last fall, a study by the University of Missouri found that bringing these dollars back to Missouri to strengthen Medicaid would create 24,000 new jobs in Missouri in 2014 alone. Gov. Nixon's proposal also rewards work by giving working Missourians who simply cannot afford health insurance access to basic health coverage. Under the proposed expansion, low-income Missourians who can't afford health insurance and earn less than 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level - or $32,500 a year for a family of four - would be eligible for coverage.
As a result of this clear economic benefit, a growing coalition of business and economic development organizations have endorsed the Medicaid expansion, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce; the chambers of commerce in Bolivar, Branson, Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Hannibal, Independence, Kansas City, Kirksville, Lee's Summit, Sedalia, Springfield, St. Louis and West Plains; the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City; the Associated Industries of Missouri; Kirksville Regional Economic Development Inc., and Columbia Regional Economic Development Inc.
"Keeping these federal dollars in Missouri through the expansion of Medicaid is vital to our health system, our region's economy, and those members of our community that are unable to obtain affordable health care insurance" said Todd Ahrens, President and CEO of Hannibal Regional Healthcare System. "We appreciate Gov. Nixon's leadership on this issue and will continue to advocate for the adoption of expanded Medicaid eligibility requirements in Missouri which will in turn protect our tax money, create jobs and improve the health of our state."
Recent studies have also shed light on the high costs of failing to move forward. Hospitals currently receive payments from the federal government for treating uninsured patients, payments that will be cut back dramatically, regardless of the state's decision on Medicaid. If Missouri turns down the federal dollars designed to compensate for those cuts by expanding coverage, hospitals will be forced to cut jobs and reduce services - while families and businesses are shouldered with higher premiums. The Missouri Hospital Association estimates that passing up this opportunity to strengthen Medicaid will cost the state 9,000 jobs and increase health insurance premiums for families and businesses by more than $1 billion.
The impact on Missouri's mental health system would also be significant. In a report released earlier this week, the Missouri Department of Mental Health found that turning down the federal dollars available to strengthen Medicaid will limit access to mental health services and weaken public safety, as hospitals respond to federal cuts by eliminating psychiatric inpatient beds.
"Throughout the country, Republican governors in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and Ohio are strengthening Medicaid in their states to grow their economy and create jobs for their citizens," Gov. Nixon said. "We cannot let Missouri fall behind. If we fail to act, those jobs and those investments will go to those other states: they'll get the benefit, we'll get the bill."
Because federal funding will cover 100 percent of the costs for calendar years 2014, 2015 and 2016, expanding health care coverage to those 300,000 uninsured Missourians would involve no state tax dollars for those years. Some of these federal dollars will pay for coverage that is currently being paid for with state dollars. In addition, the economic benefit of expansion will generate additional state revenue. These savings and revenue are conservatively estimated to have a positive impact of $46.6 million in 2014, $125 million in 2015, and $139.6 million in 2016.