Gov. Nixon announces plan to provide health care for 35,000 Missouri parents at no cost to taxpayers | Governor Jay Nixon

Gov. Nixon announces plan to provide health care for 35,000 Missouri parents at no cost to taxpayers

March 9, 2009
St. Louis (city), MO

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Landmark Healthcare Agreement

Gov. Jay Nixon greets members of the medical staff as he arrives at the Betty Jean Kerr People's Health Center in St. Louis. Gov. Nixon visited the facility today to announce an agreement with the Missouri Hospital Association to increase access to health care for 34,800 Missouri parents - at no cost to the state's taxpayers. Under the agreement, the Hospital Association would voluntarily contribute $52.5 million a year to provide health care to these parents, drawing down about $93 million in federal matching funds. These dollars would come from the funds Missouri hospitals currently receive for providing uncompensated care to uninsured patients.download

Gov. Jay Nixon is visiting community health centers across Missouri this week to announce a landmark agreement with the Missouri Hospital Association to provide quality health care to nearly 35,000 additional parents - at no increased cost to the state's taxpayers.

Under an agreement spearheaded by Gov. Nixon, the Missouri Hospital Association will voluntarily contribute an additional $52.5 million a year to provide health care to parents in Missouri; these dollars will come from the funds Missouri hospitals currently receive for providing uncompensated care to uninsured patients. This investment by the MHA would allow the state to draw down about $93 million in additional health care matching funds from the federal government. Together, these funds would provide coverage for an additional 34,800 parents in Missouri.

Currently, Missouri parents must make less than about 20 percent of the federal poverty level to be eligible for coverage under the state program. To take advantage of this landmark opportunity, the Missouri General Assembly would need to increase the eligibility threshold to 50 percent of the federal poverty level in the Fiscal Year 2010 budget. This is the only legislative action required to provide health care to these parents under this agreement because no taxpayer General Revenue dollars are needed.

"Ensuring that our workforce has access to quality, affordable health care is vital for turning our economy in the right direction," Gov. Nixon said. "To provide for their children, parents must be healthy enough to get to work and perform on the job. But today, too many parents are going without the medical care they need, or they're turning to emergency rooms instead of a traditional doctor's office. As a result, families with health insurance are picking up this tab with higher premiums and co-pays. I commend the leaders of Missouri's hospitals for partnering with me to reach this landmark agreement, and I look forward to working with the legislature to take advantage of this historic opportunity to increase access to health care without raising taxes on Missourians. By putting Missouri families first, we can extend health care to more than 34,000 parents in Missouri and drive down the cost of coverage for all Missourians, without spending a single extra dollar from the state's General Revenue. This is an opportunity we can't afford to miss."

"Gov. Nixon understands the critical role of health care in jumpstarting our economy," said Marc Smith, president of the Missouri Hospital Association. "But right now, too many Missourians don't have access to the health care they need, and those who do have coverage are paying too much for it. By using the funds our hospitals receive for uncompensated care to provide coverage for more parents, we'll help more Missourians access primary care physicians, decrease wait times in our emergency rooms and move our economy in the right direction. Together, Missouri's hospitals and our state leaders are poised to make a real investment in the health and economic future of our people. Let's take the first step now by providing coverage to 34,800 additional parents."

"The link between health care and economic development is clear," said Timothy McBride, a health care economist, professor and associate dean for public health at Washington University in St. Louis. "Our economy is struggling, but this proposal will enhance economic growth, create or retain hundreds of jobs and drive down the cost of medical care for all Missourians. This will happen because this innovative partnership between Missouri's hospitals and state government will reduce the number of uninsured Missourians, reducing the burden of uncompensated care for Missouri's health providers and reducing cost-shifting to Missourians with insurance."

Under this agreement, health care eligibility for Missouri parents would change as follows:

For a family of this size: The current eligibility level is: Under Gov. Nixon’s agreement, the eligibility level would become:
A single mother with two children About 20 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $3,700 a year 50 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $9,155 a year
A family of four (two parents and two children) About 20 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $4,410 a year 50 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $11,025

According to the 2008 "Cover Missouri" report by the Missouri Foundation for Health, more than 720,000 Missourians currently are living without health insurance, placing a considerable burden on Missouri's hospitals and emergency rooms. The costs of caring for these uninsured Missourians are passed along to those with coverage in the form of higher premiums and co-pays. Based on data studied prior to the 2005 health care cuts, Missouri families were paying between $110 and $291 more a year in premiums because of the cost of providing care for the uninsured. Estimates made before the 2005 cuts predicted that in 2010, Missourians would be paying an additional $225 to $609 a year to provide care to the uninsured. Following the 2005 cuts, however, the number of uninsured Missourians rose significantly, so those initial estimates are likely lower than the actual premium increase Missouri families will see by 2010 without action to reduce the number of uninsured individuals in the state.