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Missouri Chamber backs Medicaid expansion effort

The Medicaid expansion ballot measure has found an ally in the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

In announcing its support of Amendment 2 on Friday, the chamber heralded Medicaid expansion as a “pro-jobs measure that will help fuel economic growth throughout our state.” 

The business group cited a report from the Missouri Foundation for Health claiming Medicaid expansion would create more than 16,300 new jobs each year for the first five years with nearly 90 percent paying more than $15 per hour. The study also said the measure would expand Missouri’s economic output by $2.5 billion per year, according to a news release. 

“While this data makes a clear case for passing Amendment 2, the benefits of Medicaid expansion are even more significant during this time of economic hardship,” Daniel P. Mehan, the chamber’s president and CEO said in a statement. “Let’s not miss this chance to bolster our economy during this recovery while expanding access to health care for our fellow Missourians.” 

Gov. Mike Parson, who has received support from the Missouri Chamber, has remained a vocal opponent of efforts to expand Medicaid. He also moved the ballot measure from November to August after the Secretary of State’s Office used an “expedited” method to certify signatures. 

Just last month, Parson said he does not believe “it’s the time to be expanding” a program such as Medicaid given the financial uncertainty brought by the coronavirus crisis.

And in his State of the State address earlier this year, Parson unequivocally shot down Medicaid expansion, saying: “The reality is that expanding this system comes at the cost of other vital services such as education, workforce development, and improving our aging infrastructure.”

The expansion effort was also the subject of two lawsuits; both have failed, and the measure is set to appear on the Aug. 4 ballot. 

The ballot language asks if voters wish to amend the Missouri Constitution to expand MO HealthNet services for individuals between 19 and 64 years old with an income level at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. It would also prohibit greater or additional burdens on eligibility for enrollment standards. 

The income benchmark would be set at less than $18,000 for an individual or $30,000 for a family of three. 

If approved, the expansion would help 230,000 Missourians and keep rural hospitals open, proponents said. 

“The need for Medicaid expansion was apparent before the outbreak and only becomes more critical as the pandemic continues,” Healthcare for Missouri campaign manager A.J. Bockelman has said. “It’s time to help the workers hit hardest by this crisis and bring billions of our tax dollars home to create jobs once this outbreak is under control.” 

According to the fiscal note calculated by the state auditor, state government entities are estimated to have one-time costs of roughly $6.4 million and an unknown annual net fiscal impact by 2026 ranging from increased costs of at least $200 million to savings of $1 billion.

Thirty-six states have expanded their Medicaid programs. 

Read the full Missouri Foundation for Health report, conducted by Regional Economic Models, Inc., here

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.