By Ashley Jost
Jefferson City, Mo. — Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-5, hosted a press conference Monday morning in St. Louis discussing Senate Bill 131, which she sponsored, seeking to expand Medicaid throughout Missouri with federal money provided through the Affordable Care Act.
Nasheed said her press conference was a rallying point for healthcare facilities, healthcare agencies and businesses across the St. Louis area in order to “turn the volume up” about SB 131.
“I truly believe that if we don’t do it now, we will lose approximately $46 million next year for the first six months,” Nasheed told The Missouri Times. “That’s monies that can actually go in the budget. We were talking about how we can reduce our deficit and how we can generate more revenue into the budget. This is the opportune time to do it.”
Nasheed said the opposition to the Medicaid bill right now is showing hypocrisy at its highest level.
Federal money the State receives in order to maintain roads and highways is never turned down, she said, but that because it’s part of President Barack Obama’s “agenda,” people are saying no.
“I think we should not allow our petty politics and political pandering get in the way of serving hundreds of thousands of people in the state of Missouri who are uninsured,” she said.
Following discussion by Gov. Jay Nixon regarding sunset provisions if the federal government didn’t meet its financial obligation, Nasheed said she has also included provisions in SB 131. She said after every three years Missouri received money from the federal government, there would be a sunset period allowing the State to look at the economic efficiency, economic impact and health impact in order to see if there was gained revenue.
Since Nixon came out in support of Medicaid expansion, Nasheed said she thinks her Republican colleagues have been placed in a political bind.
“I do think we’re going to find a common purpose and common cause to get this thing done to expand Medicaid for those that are indigent and can’t afford healthcare for themselves,” she said.
Nasheed said she introduced SB 131 during the first week of session and it was later referred to the Veteran’s Affairs and Health committee chairman Sen. Dan Brown, R-16. The bill currently doesn’t have a hearing scheduled in committee, which Nasheed said she’s unhappy about.
“This should be one of the top priorities here in the state of Missouri,” she said.
Brown, who said he received the bill Jan. 22 when it was referred to him, said he has developed a process in hearing bills this session, focusing on veteran’s bills first, then shorter healthcare bills before moving on to larger healthcare bills.
Brown said Nasheed has never personally asked him to hear this bill, and that it’s completely up to the Chairman’s discretion to call the bill. He said that she’s welcome to refer SB131 to another committee.
“The attention generated from the press conference does not help her position,” Brown said.
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.