Gov. Jay Nixon today visited Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff to discuss his plans to provide health care coverage for an additional estimated 300,000 Missourians. The Governor said the step would yield significant benefits not only for uninsured working families and the economy, but also for Missouri taxpayers because the federal government will cover 100 percent of the costs for the first three years.
"Right now, we have a unique opportunity to provide health coverage to nearly 300,000 Missourians who can't afford health insurance, while growing our economy and standing up for taxpayers," Gov. Nixon said. "This is the smart thing to do, and the right thing to do, for the people of Missouri."
"Beyond our borders, Democrats and Republicans alike are stepping forward to make sure their states take advantage of this opportunity," Gov. Nixon said. "If Missouri turns down these dollars - dollars that come from taxes paid by Missourians - that money will go to some other state. They'll get the benefit, and we'll get the bill."
Currently, federal law allows for an expansion of Medicaid to cover low-income Americans who can't afford health insurance by raising the eligibility level to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. A family of four living at 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level in 2012 makes $31,809 a year.
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. Beginning in 2017, the state share would be just five percent of the cost, and then increase to six percent for 2018 and seven percent for 2019. Beginning in 2020, the state would pay only 10 percent of the cost.
Missouri hospitals are already required by law to treat people who have no health insurance. This results in the high cost of caring for the uninsured being passed along to employers and individuals who must pay higher premiums for their health insurance. If this coverage is not compensated for through an expansion of Medicaid to cover the cost of that care, hospitals will have to bear those costs or pass them onto patients with health insurance.
A recent report by the Missouri Hospital Association found that in 2011, Missouri hospitals provided $1.1 billion in uncompensated care to Missourians - a record level.
Last fall, a report by the University of Missouri demonstrated the clear economic benefit to Missouri of providing expanded health care coverage, using the available federal funds. The University of Missouri report showed that the additional funding for health care will create 24,000 new jobs in Missouri in 2014 alone.
"I believe that as folks consider the benefits of making health care more accessible to working families and bringing billions of dollars to our state, they will come to the conclusion that we must take this critical action for the people of Missouri," Gov. Nixon said.