Gov. Jay Nixon today visited the Technology Development Center at Missouri University of Science and Technology's Innovation Park in Rolla to discuss the benefits of his plan to bring the dollars Missourians send to Washington back to strengthen Medicaid in Missouri, as well as the costs of sending these dollars to other states. The proposal would bring $5.7 billion to Missouri and provide health coverage to an additional 300,000 Missourians over the next three years - at no cost to the state.
"Non-partisan business groups throughout the state, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce, support this plan because they know that bringing the dollars Missourians send to Washington back home will protect taxpayers, create jobs, and reward work," Gov. Nixon said. "Across the country, other states are stepping up to seize this opportunity. If we fail to act, those jobs and those investments will go to those other states: they'll get the benefit, we'll get the bill."
Last fall, a study by the University of Missouri found that bringing these dollars back to Missouri to strengthen Medicaid would create 24,000 new jobs in Missouri in 2014 alone. Gov. Nixon's proposal also rewards work by giving working Missourians who simply cannot afford health insurance access to basic health coverage. Under the proposed expansion, low-income Missourians who can't afford health insurance and earn less than 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level - or $32,500 a year for a family of four - would be eligible for coverage.
As a result of this clear economic benefit, a growing coalition of business and economic development organizations have endorsed the Medicaid expansion, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce; the chambers of commerce in Bolivar, Branson, Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Hannibal, Independence, Kansas City, Kirksville, Lee's Summit, Sedalia, Springfield, St. Louis and West Plains; the Civic Council of Greater Kansas City; the Associated Industries of Missouri; Kirksville Regional Economic Development Inc., and Columbia Regional Economic Development Inc.
"As one of the area's largest employers, we recognize that strengthening Medicaid is critical to ensuring the long-term viability of rural hospitals like ours," said John Denbo, CEO of Phelps County Regional Medical Center. "We also know that with nearly one out of five people in Phelps County living below the poverty level, making sure low-income Missourians have access to preventative health care makes good fiscal sense for taxpayers everywhere."
Recent studies have also shed light on the high costs of failing to move forward. Hospitals currently receive payments from the federal government for treating uninsured patients, payments that will be cut back dramatically, regardless of the state's decision on Medicaid. If Missouri turns down the federal dollars designed to compensate for those cuts by expanding coverage, hospitals will be forced to cut jobs and reduce services - while families and businesses are shouldered with higher premiums. The Missouri Hospital Association estimates that passing up this opportunity to strengthen Medicaid will cost the state 9,000 jobs and increase health insurance premiums for families and businesses by more than $1 billion.
The impact on Missouri's mental health system would also be significant. In a report released earlier this week, the Missouri Department of Mental Health found that turning down the federal dollars available to strengthen Medicaid will limit access to mental health services and weaken public safety, as hospitals respond to federal cuts by eliminating psychiatric inpatient beds.
"Republican governors in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota and Ohio are putting partisan politics aside and embracing this opportunity to strengthen Medicaid and create jobs in their states," Gov. Nixon said. "Sending our tax dollars to these other states will hurt our economy, increase costs for families and businesses, and weaken public safety. That is why we must move forward now and strengthen Medicaid the Missouri way. The costs of inaction are simply too high."
Because federal funding will cover 100 percent of the costs for calendar years 2014, 2015 and 2016, expanding health care coverage to those 300,000 uninsured Missourians would involve no state tax dollars for those years. Some of these federal dollars will pay for coverage that is currently being paid for with state dollars. In addition, the economic benefit of expansion will generate additional state revenue. These savings and revenue are conservatively estimated to have a positive impact of $46.6 million in 2014, $125 million in 2015, and $139.6 million in 2016.