In 2014, Missouri will forgo $2 billion in federal dollars that could have been used to improve the health of Missouri’s working poor, warned former U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond during a panel discussion on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Missouri Chamber Day at the Capital in Jefferson City. He highlighted the importance of passing legislation that would allow Missouri to expand and reform its Medicaid system.
“Since I served as Governor and later in the U.S. Senate, I fought to send Missouri tax dollars home, not to watch our state sit on the sidelines and lose $2 billion in federal funds,” Sen. Bond said. “By acting this year, we can put those dollars to work reforming Medicaid, protecting access to health care and safeguarding our budget.”
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been working with lawmakers to help secure passage of the expansion this year.
“No matter what, our tax dollars are being sent to Washington D.C. for the Affordable Care Act,” said Brendan Cossette, Missouri Chamber director of legislative affairs. “We are a lot better off having those dollars come back to Missouri rather than have them be spent in our neighboring states. We should be bringing those dollars home to help our state and our economy.”
During the panel presentation, the economic impact of forgoing $2 billion dollars was put in perspective:
- $2 billion is the annual food cost for 263,713 Missouri households.
- $2 billion is equal to Missouri’s annual sales and use tax collections.
- $2 billion is the value of all corn production in Missouri.
There is a strong business case for expanding Medicaid to allow Missouri to secure federal funding and extend health care coverage to 300,000 additional Missourians.
“Reforming our health system for the working poor would allow better access to care for uninsured Missourians — reducing absenteeism and increasing worker productivity,” said Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “It would allow hard working Missourians who earn a low wage to stay on the job. That’s good for workers and the state as a whole.”
In addition, a refusal to expand the program this year would create additional stress on the state’s hospitals, especially rural hospitals. To cope, they would likely be forced to pass on the burden to private insurers, who would then pass it to Missouri businesses and policyholders.
“People are still going to be getting sick. They are still going to be showing up in hospitals in emergency departments across the state,” Cossette said. “Unfortunately, without Medicaid expansion, these costs are going to be shifted from hospitals to employers who provide private insurance.”
Mehan pointed out that Missouri can’t let another year go by without action.
“Missouri is leaving a lot of money on the table in 2014,” Mehan said. “If the state doesn’t extend coverage to Missouri’s working poor this year, we’ll have another year where taxpayer dollars from Missouri go to other states to improve their health and health care systems while the costs of the uninsured are shifted to businesses and individuals. That’s a lose-lose proposition.”