Medicaid Expansion advocates look to put local pressure on lawmakers


Saint Louis, Mo. — Lawmakers typically return to their districts during the legislative spring break, making time for families and attending fundraisers and constituent events. And it’s precisely this pattern that advocates for Medicaid expansion in Missouri are hoping to exploit.

For the past few days and all through the weekend, advocates with the Missouri Medicaid Coalition are holding public events across the state, and in many cases, targeting particular lawmakers with their choices.

In St. Charles, where Senate Pro Tem Tom Dempsey calls home, advocates canvassed and handed out literature yesterday before a planned town hall meeting and vigil scheduled for tonight.

In Joplin, home to Senate Majority Leader, Ron Richard, advocates will hold a town hall event Thursday before a public gathering or “visibility event” on Saturday.

On Friday, a town hall discussion will be held at Western State University in St. Joseph, home to perhaps the loudest opponent of expansion in the Senate, Sen. Rob Schaaf.

There are other events, too. Advocates took to street corners in Columbia wielding signs urging lawmakers to close the “coverage gap.” There will be a march and rally tomorrow in Kansas City ahead of a town hall meeting in St. Louis followed by a March and, finally, a panel discussion in Warrensburg next week.

“What advocates of Medicaid expansion around the state want their legislators to know is that while this is an issue that gets worked on in Jefferson City, Medicaid expansion is a number one issue back home in their districts,” said Rebecca Gorley, Deputy Communications Director, Missouri Medicaid Coalition.“For one reason or another, the location of these district actions is looking to create awareness for key legislators.”

The series of events comes following the final day of session prior to the break which saw hundreds of expansion advocates gather in the state Capitol for the largest event of the year. Activists briefly shut down the Senate by forming a human ring around the chamber, singing civil rights songs and chanting that “silence is violence.”

Expansion remains a non-starter for many Republicans, who are quick to cite their overwhelming electoral victories around the state as proof that Missourians aren’t ready to embrace Medicaid expansion. Advocates remain hopeful that increased pressure from local individuals and healthcare providers will ultimately bring conservative lawmakers to the table.

Featured: Medicaid activists at the Capitol last week