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Missouri veterans fight to expand medicaid

JEFFERSON CITY — Earlier today state senator Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, and the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations (MAVO) joined together to discuss expansion of healthcare coverage for veterans in Missouri.

A veteran is anyone who served honorably on active duty and was discharged under honorable conditions. Many veterans fall in the “coverage gap” — earning too little to buy private insurance but too much to qualify for Medicaid in Missouri — which affects about 300,000 citizens. According to Silvey, there are an estimated 22,000 veterans and their spouses that are not receiving health care, however it is unclear whether or not that number includes children and extended family.

“This is a problem we’ve identified, and I’m trying to solve it,” said Silvey.

He plans to propose the Veterans Family Healthcare Act later today, which will specifically target veterans. The bill will expand Medicaid access to any veteran making 138 percent of the federal poverty level, mirroring the broader Medicaid expansion legislation supported by Missouri Democrats and a small number of Republicans.

The move comes as Silvey and his party’s leadership are likely to clash later this year over expanding Medicaid in Missouri as called for in the Affordable Care Act. Silvey, who serves as Vice Chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations committee, is a proponent of a “conservative” plan to expand Medicaid, and the latest move to begin discussions around expansion as it relates strictly to veterans is no doubt a move with deep political implications as well.

“If we are already OK with having the debate of increasing the asset limit [for Medicaid] or adding back the procedures that we recently cut, then we ought to be putting money into taking care of our veterans with the health care system that we have,” Silvey said.

Dewey Riehn, member of MAVO, stated that the organization would not testify one way or another in terms of Medicaid expansion for everyone. Their goal is to focus solely on veterans and their families. While Silvey plans to propose at least four heath care bills this session, is easy to assume that the Veterans Family Healthcare Act will have a higher chance of passing because it is aimed only at veterans.

Silvey expects to file the bill within the next few days.