Missourians voted to expand Medicaid, Now what?

Rev Steve Heather KOLR

BOLIVAR, Mo. – Come July 1, 2021, Medicaid will be available to more people in Missouri. On Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 53 percent of voters voted Yes on Amendment 2, while 46 percent voted No.

The amendment makes the requirement for people to get Medicaid an income of 133-138 percent of the poverty level or below. This applies to people between the ages of 19-64. For a single person, 133 percent of the federal poverty level means if you make less than about $17,000, you’d be eligible. For a couple, that’d be an income of about $23,000 or less per year. The income threshold goes up for families that have kids. The larger the family, the higher the income threshold.

Amendment 2 also blocks any extra burdens or enrollment standards for Medicaid patients. It requires Missouri to maximize federal money to fund the program.

Those in favor of the expansion say it will help an estimated 230,000 people get access to health insurance. Tim Wolters, director of reimbursement at Citizens Memorial Hospital, says Amendment 2 passing is a “win all around.”

“The patients will have coverage,” Wolters said. “They’ll have better access to healthcare, so they won’t worry about the bills as much. We will be able to take care of them at the right time, help them manage their conditions, keep them healthier. Jobs is certainly something to consider as far as the money coming into the state. It will help the state economy overall, significantly.”

Republican representative Hannah Kelly, who represents Missouri House District 141, says she doesn’t think this will help the state financially. She says Amendment 2 is currently projected to cost Missouri $349 million of its general revenue. The projection comes from a collaboration of politicians from across the state.

“Any projections most often are wrong, and it’s always cost us more,” Kelly said. “I’ve been in state service for four years, and I’ve never yet seen a projection that was too much. It’s never been enough.”

Kelly says the $349 million projection is the state’s portion of a total bill that equals over $2 billion. The federal government is supposed to catch the remaining balance.

“There is also some question about how long the federal government will be able to cover the remaining balance of the bill,” Kelly said. “For those who know the Missouri budget, you know that we don’t have that kind of money,” Kelly said. “I just ask for folks to understand that here in Missouri we don’t have a money tree.”

So, what will this mean for taxpayers?

Kelly says it’s too early to get into specific numbers, but people will see cuts in public education, higher education and infrastructure. She says if there isn’t enough money to balance the state’s budget, Missourians will see a raise in taxes.

“What scares me more than anything of why I’ve been against this from day one is there’s no quantifiable individual amount I can point to as what to expect,” Kelly said. “To me, that’s very, very scary as a Missouri citizen, as a taxpayer and as a state representative. It’s why I fought against it hard.”

Now that Amendment 2 has passed, government officials in Jefferson City will start working on a Medicaid expansion plan.

For more information on Medicaid eligibility levels, click on this link.

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