Healthcare Advocates Launch Statewide Campaign to Put Medicaid Expansion on the Ballot

Today, a growing coalition of doctors, nurses, patients, business executives, and healthcare supporters announced they are launching a statewide campaign to let voters decide whether the state should expand Medicaid.

“Medicaid expansion is the right thing to do for the people of our state. It’s the fiscally responsible thing to do as well,” said Rick Stevens, president of Christian Hospital in St. Louis. “All Missourians need access to basic health services and life-saving care. That’s why we’re launching our campaign to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot.”

The newly formed campaign — Healthcare for Missouri — will ask voters to bring home more than a billion of Missourians’ tax dollars from Washington, D.C., every year to keep rural hospitals open, boost the state’s economy, and deliver healthcare to people who have lower-paying jobs that don’t come with insurance.

Healthcare advocates had been exploring whether to move forward with the effort throughout the summer before committing Wednesday to pursue a ballot amendment that will ensure the will of the voters is heard and respected.

More than 200,000 uninsured Missourians — including farmers, service workers, and small business employees — would be eligible to receive healthcare if voters approve Medicaid expansion. It would help Missourians who earn too much to qualify for existing Medicaid and too little to be able to afford private insurance.

Sarah Auxier works as a home healthcare worker in St. James, taking care of her son Kyle, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Kyle, who has insurance while his mother does not, can only move two fingers and relies on Sarah for his survival. Sarah has had chest pains in the past but has been too afraid to call an ambulance because she can’t afford it. She worries that she’ll get sick and cause Kyle to become deathly ill due to his compromised immune system.

“I have to stay healthy. If I get sick, Kyle could get sick. My cold could be his pneumonia. His pneumonia could potentially kill him. I couldn’t live with myself. I have to be able to go to a doctor, and right now I can’t afford it,” she said.

Louis Grothman is also in the healthcare gap. The delivery driver and St. Louis resident is currently recovering following an emergency open heart surgery, which left him more than $100,000 in debt. He was born with diabetes and is unable to afford insurance or the long-term insulin he is supposed to take.

“It would be far less expensive to treat problems on the front end before they become so severe, but what are people like me supposed to do,” he asked. “I have days when I work 15 hours, but I still can’t afford health insurance.”

Dr. Heidi Miller, a longtime proponent of Medicaid expansion and backer of the initiative, said too many Missourians find themselves in the same situation as Sarah and Louis.

“I feel so strongly that hardworking Missourians across the state deserve affordable healthcare so that they don’t have to decide between their medications and putting food on the table,” she said.

Herb Kuhn, president and CEO of the Missouri Hospital Association, one of the organizations supporting the effort, said rural areas have been hit particularly hard due to the fact that Missouri has yet to expand Medicaid. Nine rural hospitals in the state have closed since 2014.

“Hospital closures in rural communities have increased the distance to lifesaving care for Missourians suffering from traumatic injuries, stroke and heart attack,” said Kuhn. “Minutes count in medical emergencies. Medicaid expansion will help maintain access to emergency care in rural Missouri — benefiting those gaining coverage and all rural residents.”

Under expansion, Medicaid would be available to those making less than 138% of the federal poverty level, which is less than $18,000 a year for an individual or $30,000 for a family of three. A study conducted by researchers at Washington University found that expanding Medicaid in Missouri would save $932 million by 2024. A recent financial analysis conducted by the state also found that expansion could save up to a billion dollars by 2024. 

Thirty-six states have already expanded Medicaid. Last year, voters in Utah, Nebraska, and Idaho all approved Medicaid expansion.

Healthcare for Missouri released a video Wednesday highlighting the benefits that Medicaid expansion would bring to Missouri families and its economy. The video is available on the campaign’s website: www.HealthcareForMissouri.org.

A broadcast quality version of the video may be downloaded and used by news media. It is available at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1W4cY7IyolVtJHJm10SweYQ-CW0HLrQVB

The campaign will need to collect more than 172,000 signatures to put the issue on the November 2020 ballot.

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PAID FOR BY MISSOURIANS FOR HEALTHCARE; JOE PIERLE, TREASURER