JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Former Missouri auditor, governor, and U.S. Senator Kit Bond was in the building today lending his support to Kansas City Republican Sen. Ryan Silvey’s SB287.
The bill would allow veterans and their spouses and dependent children, as well as spouses and dependent children of deceased veterans, with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level, to be eligible for MO HealthNet benefits. The bill effectively expands Medicaid for veterans and their families.
With Bond were three veterans who are current students at the University of Missouri – Columbia who fall within the coverage gap that Silvey’s bill seeks to address.
- Ryan Gerard Gill (immediate right of Bond) was in the Army National Guard from 2007-2013. While in the Guard, he was deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Haiti earthquake relief, and as support to Operation Enduring Freedom via deployment to Qatar. Gill is from Portageville and is the current Missouri Student Veterans Association (MSVA) president.
- Sean McLafferty (left) also served in Operation Iraqui Freedom in combat infantry with the 82nd Airborne. He was active from 2004-2008 and is presently active in the Army Reserves. McClaferty is getting his graduate degree in public policy. He was raised in Ferguson, but lives in Columbia and plans to stay.
- John Quade (far right) is a Marine veteran who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and is also the former president of the MSVA. Quade is a Springfield native and a member of QEBH, a senior Mizzou honor society.
All three stand to lose insurance coverage in two years and all three will still be in school.
“They are living proof that veterans, when they come back, after 5 years are not covered – and their families are not covered – by the VA health system, and if they are covered, there are many areas of this state where they cannot get health care,” Bond told The Missouri Times. “Since they are making less than $26,000 for a family of three, they don’t qualify for the Obamacare. They fall in the gap and they don’t have any health coverage.”
Bond shared that other states who have expanded Medicaid cover the gap needed for veterans. Silvey’s bill has no reliance on federal funds and there is no deadline for the bill to pass.
“If you can’t fix everything, let’s at least help our veterans,” Bond said. “I am very, very partial to the men and women who have served this coverage. This is one group that we owe it to.”
This is the first day that Bond and the students have been actively rallying support for SB287. Silvey’s legislation was introduced last week.
“We really just got started,” said Gill. “We have 700 [veterans] at MU that if not currently affected by [the gap], they know someone who is.”
One concern that is a priority for the Mizzou veterans was the increase in female veterans who have served in combat and that they are able to have coverage.
“Never before have [women] been so exposed to combat and combat experience,” said Gill. “A really big concern is for them – ‘lady warriors,’ we like to call them, and their families. It’s really important and it’s a niche subject. Our VA is not really prepared to handle a lot of the female needs yet. There are other avenues that allow them to have more piece of mind.”
The students are in the developmental stages of their campaign of support for the bill on campus.
Currently, VA benefits only apply to veterans for 5 years out of service. Many veterans as they enter the workforce fall in the gap because they make too much for Medicaid, but too much for Affordable Care Act coverage.
“If everything stays the same, I will be in the gap,” Gill said. “It’s good to see a proactive measure and not a reactive measure.”
Rachael Herndon was the editor at The Missouri Times and also produced This Week in Missouri Politics, published Missouri Times Magazine, and co-hosted the #MoLeg podcast. She joined The Missouri Times in 2014, returning to political reporting after working as a campaign and legislative staffer.
Rachael studied at the University of Missouri – Columbia. She lives in Jefferson City with her husband, Brandon, and their two children.