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Missouri Politics

Expert: Denying Medicaid expansion might not save Missouri money


A public affairs expert at the University of Missouri said Thursday that voting down Medicaid expansion won't necessarily save Missouri taxpayer dollars.

The Missouri Senate voted late Wednesday against funding the Medicaid expansion voters approved last year, saying the cost would be too high for the state.

Democrats argued the funding would give people medical care who were working multiple jobs and still couldn't afford health care. Supporters of expansion say it would also pump more federal dollars into the state.

The bill would have expanded medical coverage for anyone 19 to 65 years old who qualifies for MO HealthNet services. These individuals have to have an income at or below 133% of the federal poverty level to be eligible for medical assistance. Without expansion, adults who can work are not covered.

Jake Haselswerdt is an assistant professor in the Truman School of Government of Public Affairs at the University of Missouri who specializes in U.S. public policy, particularly health and social policy.

Haselswerdt said even if funding is voted down on the state level, people are going to be paying for Medicaid expansion anyway.

"On the federal side, as a taxpayer, your state might opt out of expansion but you can't opt out of feral income taxes and corporate taxes so you're paying for the expansion in other states," Haselswerdt said.

Missouri House Democratic Campaign Committee Chair Peter Merideth said Republicans showed "cowardice" in shooting down funding for expansion.

"Instead of fulfilling their constitutional obligation and their obligation to the voters of Missouri, they’re hiding in the shadows, knowing full-well that Missouri is obligated to cover eligible Missourians under the Constitution," Merideth said.

Jeremy Cady with Americans for Prosperity released a statement Thursday morning praising the Missouri Senate for not increasing Medicaid funding at a cost of millions of dollars.

"Our lawmakers were right to stand strong against wasteful spending and fiscal irresponsibility by opposing the expansion of a broken Medicaid system," Cady said. "Missouri voted for a program it could not afford under the misguided promise that it would save taxpayers $39 million in the first year."

The Senate voted down the expansion 20-14 with four Republicans joining Democrats in favor of expanding the funding.

Haselswerdt said there's evidence that Medicaid expansion is not bad for state budgets and there's evidence it can improve mental health.

"There's some good evidence that it was good for mental health, but it's not clear whether that was because people were doing better financially or because they were getting care," Haselswerdt said. "Over the years as expansion has continued there's kind of mounting evidence that it is good for health."

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Meghan Drakas

Meghan joined ABC 17 News in January 2021.
The Penn State grad is from the Philadelphia suburbs where she interned with several local TV stations.


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