Medicaid expansion emerging as key issue in Missouri gubernatorial race

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Former Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson opens a special session on June 11, 2018. Richardson is now the state’s Medicaid director (file photo courtesy of Tim Bommel at House Communications)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (Missourinet)– Missouri’s GOP governor and his likely November Democratic opponent clashed over the issue of Medicaid expansion, during separate press conferences Tuesday in Jefferson City.

Medicaid is a federal and state program that assists with medical costs for residents who have limited incomes. Missouri’s current Medicaid budget is about $10 billion, accounting for about one-third of the state’s $30 billion operating budget.

Governor Mike Parson (R) and State Auditor Nicole Galloway (D) spoke to Capitol reporters at separate press conferences, after they filed for governor at the Kirkpatrick Building.

Missourinet asked both candidates about the issue, during their briefings. Governor Parson opposes Medicaid expansion, saying the system is broken.

“When (Auditor) Galloway was there and (Democratic Governor Jay) Nixon was there, we had over one million people on the state Medicaid roll out of six million. So when you think of that practically, one out of every six people on Medicaid,” Parson says.

Parson also says no one verified the Medicaid rolls, for more than a decade. He also emphasizes that children who qualify for Medicaid should receive it, and that his administration wants them to receive it.

Auditor Galloway, the presumptive Democratic nominee, backs Medicaid expansion. She says rural Missouri hospitals are closing, and that thousands of children have lost their health insurance coverage, under Parson.

Galloway says Medicaid expansion is crucial.

“We have a governor that has kicked 100,000 children off of their health insurance, and he has no vision and no solution on how he’s going to fix that,” Galloway says.

Medicaid expansion supporters, including “Healthcare for Missouri”, note that eight rural Missouri hospitals have closed in recent years. The group says Arkansas and Ohio have expanded Medicaid, and that they’ve used Medicaid-derived savings to cut income taxes.

Governor Parson sees it differently, asking why someone would want to expand a broken system. He also suggests that some lawmakers are grandstanding on the issue, and asks if they’ve trying to sign people up for Medicaid.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, also opposes Medicaid expansion. He says it would take dollars out of the classroom, noting it requires a ten percent match for the 90 percent draw down.

Two other Republicans filed today against Governor Parson in the GOP gubernatorial primary: State Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron, and Seneca resident Raleigh Ritter.

St. Louis Democrats Jimmie Matthews and Antoin Johnson have filed in the Democratic gubernatorial primary.

Filing will continue on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Kirkpatrick Building. The final day of filing is March 31.

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