Column: Standing in the gap for working Missourians
Written by Gov. Jay Nixon and Dr. Jim Hill, president of the Missouri Faith Voices board
In the prophet Ezekiel’s day, the poor and needy of Jerusalem faced oppression and extortion. Ezekiel says God “looked for someone who would stand in the gap…and found no one.” Because good people did not stand up for a more righteous Jerusalem, suffering in Jerusalem continued.
Today, the gaps that mark the injustices of our modern world are wide. The gap between a sick child and healing medicine. The gap between an injured worker and a doctor’s care. The gap between a death sentence and a lifesaving medical procedure.
As children of God, we cannot allow Missourians to suffer. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel’s fellow prophet and contemporary, we must stand in these gaps to proclaim, “Do what is just and right…”
It is just and right to care for the sick and suffering. That’s why leaders of faith communities across the state support providing health coverage to 300,000 working Missourians through the expansion of the state’s Medicaid program.
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.
Strengthening Medicaid will also bring the dollars Missourians send to Washington back to Missouri. In fact, the proposal would bring $5.7 billion to Missouri 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 this 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.
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.
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. These payments 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. At the same time families and businesses will be required to shoulder higher premiums.
The Missouri Hospital Association also 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.
It’s clear that the only thing we cannot afford is failing to take action on Medicaid. Before us now, the only cause for inaction is words. Words like Democrat and Republican. Elections and ObamaCare. Politics and party lines. They’re just words, but in Jefferson City, they serve as excuses for leaving a gap – a gap that is the difference between life and death for thousands of our sick brothers and sisters.
What is right and just is before us. It’s time for leaders from both parties to stand together on common ground for the common good and the welfare of all our citizens.
And when this critical legislation reaches the General Assembly, we hope that each member opens their heart, sees their brothers and sisters in need, and answers the prophet Ezekiel’s challenge to stand in the gap toprovide health coverage for 300,000 working Missourians.