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Medicaid expansion endorsed by AARP

Missouri’s Medicaid expansion initiative has gained a new ally in the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Missouri branch. 

Healthcare for Missouri spokesman Jack Cardetti was joined by AARP Missouri advocacy director Jay Hardenbrook for a virtual press conference Thursday morning to announce the endorsement, which comes a week after the ballot initiative received the support of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce.

Cardetti said the passage of Amendment 2 would put tax dollars into Missouri communities and boost both the health and economy of Missourians.

“It also, in this absolutely crucial time, is going to improve access to care which has never been more critical than it is today and it will protect thousands of frontline workers’ jobs,” Cardetti said. 

“This is one of the few issues where the business community, organized labor, civil rights organizations, and public health organizations all agree that the number one thing we can do to keep rural hospitals open and to invest in a healthier economy is expanding Medicaid.”  

Hardenbrook said AARP has been involved in efforts to expand Medicaid throughout the U.S., and the amendment would benefit caregivers looking for health care options as well as rural hospitals.

“We’ve seen a lot of rural hospitals close, and we have literally tens of thousands of members in rural Missouri who are struggling to get local healthcare,” Hardenbrook said. “Finally, the really important thing is that the data shows that expanding Medicaid will actually save the state of Missouri money that we can invest in things like more senior services as well as education, higher education, and all of the services that the state relies on.”

Gov. Mike Parson moved the effort to the August ballot. Parson has stated now is not the time to expand Medicaid, and the expansion would compete for funds against various other state programs.

Addressing the move, Hardenbrook said that the change likely will not have a negative effect on turnout, at least as far as the AARP membership is concerned. 

“For the August primary, we can expect to see over 70 percent of the vote to be 50-plus, our demographic, our constituents,” Hardenbrook said. “AARP over our 60-plus year history has been really good at turning out our members to vote. We will be continuing to push our members to turn out and vote and also educating them about how essential Medicaid expansion really is for each one of them.”

“That’s why we went through the initiative petition process; we want Missourians to have the final say on this absolutely critical healthcare issue,” Cardetti said. “Thirty-six states have expanded Medicaid, including a number of Republican-led states like Indiana … and not a single one of those states have reversed course. It’s working in those states, it can work here in the state of Missouri.”

A statement from Healthcare for Missouri pointed to more than 250 groups backing the initiative so far. The organization projects that the expansion would create more than 16,000 jobs annually for the first five years.