by Collin Reischman
House Minority Floor Leader Jacob Hummel said during the press conference that the expansion was not only about job creation, but job retention.
“We stand to lose up to 5,000 Missouri jobs if we don’t pursue this,” Hummel said. “That shouldn’t be acceptable, not when we have a chance to expand jobs. This legislation would create 24,000 new jobs in Missouri.”
Hummel said that not only would the legislation create jobs, but that the bill would keep rural hospitals, struggling with unreimbursed costs, stay afloat. According to Hummel, rural hospitals in Missouri could be faced with closure if the expansion is not made
“Some of our larger hospitals will carry on,” Hummel said. “But our rural facilities, they are in danger of lowering the quality of care, or even closing completely.”
CEO of Pemiscot Memorial Hospital, Kerry Noble, said the bill was “desperately needed.” Pemiscot Memorial is located in Hayti of Pemiscot County, the most economically depressed county in the state. Noble said shutting down the hospital was a potential cost of not expanding Medicaid coverage and said his facility stood to lose more than $1 million annually without the legislation.
“We’re the second largest employer in the region,” Noble said of his more than 500 employees. “This would not only affect the quality of care, but it would send Missouri taxpayers dollars to other states instead of keeping it here to fund out facilities and create jobs. I commend Representative Hummel and the Democratic caucus for proposing this legislation.”
Noble said 14 percent of the annual budget of his facility went to uncompensated costs, a number which could be drastically reduced if Medicaid is expanded. If HB 627 is passed in its current form, it would expand eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level and bring $8.2 million in federal money to the state. According to a study commissioned by the Missouri Hospital Association through the University of Missouri School of Medicine, the expansion could bring 24,000 new jobs to the state and an additional $9.2 billion in economic activity in by 2020.
House Democratic Representative Vicki Englund, D-94, told The Missouri Times she fully supported the measure.
“Medicaid expansion is compassion, responsibility and economic expansion rolled into one,” Englund said in a statement to TMT. “The fact that it is opposed only by politics is proof it’s the right thing to do.”
House Republicans were kick to counter. Representative Mike Cierpiot, R-30, said reform, not growth, was what was most needed.
“I am staying consistent with my position before the election,” Ciepiot told TMT in a statement. “Missourians have spoken clearly on this and I will continue opposing Obamacare. Medicaid reform should be the subject, not growth.”
When asked if he’d received any assurances the bill would be given a committee hearng, Hummel replied that he had not received any such assurances from House Republican leadership, but said that wouldn’t deter him and that “the people of Missouri deserve a vote,” on the matter.
Hummel said he was open to working with Republicans, who are currently crafting their own legislation, but have not yet filed a bill. Hummel said he was willing to take the statutory language to the ballot, but that the actual budgetary measures needed to expand the coverage would have to be accomplished by the legislature.
“As soon as they present their bill, I’d be happy to look at it,” Hummel said.
Collin Reischman can be reached by emailing him at email@example.com or on twitter at @CReischman