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17K Missourians apply for health coverage through expanded Medicaid program

More than 17,000 people have signed up for health coverage under Missouri’s Medicaid program since it began accepting applications from an expanded population in August, the federal Department of Health and Human Services said Monday. 

Missouri will receive about $968 million in additional federal funding through the American Rescue Plan over the next two years for the state’s Medicaid program, called MO HealthNet. 

CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure

Although voters approved expanding Medicaid coverage to cover about 275,000 more people in August 2020, it was delayed in implementation as courts decided whether the amendment was constitutional. The state began to process applications on Oct. 1 after a judge said qualifying individuals could not be denied. 

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said the Biden administration will use Missouri’s expansion to “urge” 12 other states to expand their Medicaid programs as well. 

“Hundreds of thousands of Missourians can now gain the peace of mind of having health coverage through Medicaid,” Becerra said. “This is a win for all Missourians who have fought long and hard to gain their rightful access to quality health insurance made possible through the Affordable Care Act.” 

The expansion opened up MO HealthNet to about 275,000 individuals in Missouri. It covers single individuals who make less than $18,000 per year or a family of four who makes up to $36,750 per year. Coverage includes primary and preventative care, substance use disorder treatments, and prescription drug benefits. 

Having health insurance can be “life-changing” for those Missourians, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said.

“When you’re covered, you don’t have to choose between your health and taking care of your family. We saw as part of the drafting of the Affordable Care Act so many families going bankrupt because of medical bills,” Brooks-LaSure told The Missouri Times. “With the expansion of Medicaid, we see really the opportunity for families to be able to focus on other issues, and comprehensive care is critical for people living their best lives. Access to insurance, particularly during a pandemic, cannot be underestimated.” 

She said the next step is to ensure Missourians who are eligible for coverage are made aware and understand how to apply.

Appearing on “This Week in Missouri Politics” Sunday, Republican Sen. Bill Eigel argued the Medicaid expansion campaign was “dishonest” when it came to how much money it would end up costing Missouri.

“If there were a way we could get free health care for everybody, and it wouldn’t cost more money, who wouldn’t support that? And that’s what Missourians were told when they went to the ballot box,” Eigel said. “In a world where we have a tremendous amount of disinformation about Medicaid expansion, that can sometimes shade decision a little bit, and that’s unfortunate.”