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Point / Counter-point: Medicaid Expanson

Point, by Herb B. Kuhn President and CEO 

Missouri Hospital AssociationDSC_5926

Building a Healthy State Economy

As lawmakers return to Jefferson City for the state’s legislative session, they come with a desire to grow the state’s economy, add jobs, reduce Missourians’ financial burden and create a stronger, more vibrant state. We have a plan for them — expand health care coverage.

First, there is compelling evidence that accepting the federal dollars for Medicaid expansion will benefit Missouri’s budget. Independent analysis and the state’s budget office both point to a state budget surplus created throughout 2020. Expansion will create state budget savings and an economic boost by injecting billions of new federal dollars into the state’s economy.

A recent study from the University of Missouri adds an additional case for Medicaid expansion. According to the researchers, Medicaid expansion would create more than 20,000 sustainable jobs. And, all these jobs are not in health care — they are in sectors throughout the economy and across the entire state. In the past, lawmakers have worked on incentive packages to retain current employers and attract new industries. Medicaid expansion would build jobs while helping strengthen the value proposition that the state enjoys as a lower cost health care system.

There’s another important case for expansion, and it is a kitchen table issue for many Missourians — health care costs. By expanding the state’s Medicaid program, the average Missouri family of four could save $1,688 in insurance premiums between 2014 and 2020. Missouri families and employers pay a “hidden health care tax” to help offset the costs of the uninsured as part of their premium dollar. Reducing the high cost of the state’s uninsured would diminish the need to shift these costs to individuals and businesses.

mhaJust as there are positive economic consequences to expanding Medicaid, there are negative consequences for failing to expand. Missouri’s hospitals will experience more than $3 billion in cuts to provider payments through the Affordable Care Act. These cuts were intended to be partially offset through the expansion of Medicaid and commercial insurance. Without expansion, Missourians will continue to pay the high cost of the uninsured while their federal tax dollars are used to pay for health care in other states. In addition, the federal cuts would imperil hospitals’ ability to provide access to the level of care that Missourians expect and deserve, and it could create serious financial uncertainty and instability for our state’s hospitals.

There’s a strong economic case for Medicaid expansion. There’s also a case that it’s the right thing to do. Healthy Missourians are more productive and less prone to absenteeism. And, better health leads to a stronger workforce — for today and tomorrow.

There will be arguments made that the federal government isn’t a stable long-term funding partner and that Missouri can’t afford to expand Medicaid. The first criticism is fair. However, that doesn’t keep Missouri from fighting for highway funding or other priorities. The second criticism isn’t fair. The plan on the table would create surpluses through 2020 and generate significant, ongoing economic activity.

It’s not whether Missouri can afford Medicaid expansion — it’s whether we can afford not to.