Missouri’s most influential business group is endorsing a Medicaid expansion issue that will appear on your August ballot. Medicaid, which is formally known as MO HealthNet, is a federal and state program that assists with medical costs for residents who have limited incomes.

Governor Mike Parson (right) briefs Missouri Capitol reporters in Jefferson City on June 11, 2020 (photo courtesy of the governor’s Flickr page)

Missouri’s current Medicaid budget is about $10 billion, accounting for about one-third of the state’s $30 billion operating budget.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry has endorsed Amendment Two, which will be on the August 4 statewide ballot. The Chamber describes the Medicaid expansion proposal as a “pro-jobs measure that will help fuel economic growth throughout our state.”

The Chamber quotes a study from the Missouri Foundation for Health, which says Medicaid expansion will create more than 16,000 new jobs annually during its first five years, while increasing personal income by $1.1 billion annually. The Chamber says most of the new positions would be outside St. Louis and Kansas City, and that 90 percent of those jobs will pay more than $15 an hour.

The Missouri Hospital Association says ten rural Missouri hospitals have closed since 2014.

“Let’s not miss this chance to bolster our economy during this recovery, while expanding access to healthcare for our fellow Missourians,” Missouri Chamber President Dan Mehan says, in a written statement.

36 states have approved Medicaid expansion.

While the Medicaid expansion issue will be decided by voters in August, it has also emerged as a key issue in Missouri’s November gubernatorial race. It’s also a key issue for lawmakers in both parties.

Missourinet asked both Governor Mike Parson (R) and State Auditor Nicole Galloway (D), the presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee, about Medicaid expansion when they filed in February in Jefferson City.

“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 told Missourinet in February, at the Kirkpatrick Building.

Parson also said that day that no one verified Missouri’s Medicaid rolls, for more than a decade. He also emphasized that children who qualify for Medicaid should receive those services, and that his administration wants them to receive the services.

Auditor Galloway supports Medicaid expansion, noting the ten rural Missouri hospitals that have closed since 2014. The Columbia Democrat told Missourinet in February that it’s 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 said that day.

Medicaid expansion has been discussed in the General Assembly for years, with most Republicans opposed to it and Democrats supporting.

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

House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, agrees, telling Missourinet Friday evening that he opposes Medicaid expansion because he worries it will blow a hole in the state budget. Other GOP members on the House Budget Committee have the same concern.

Democrats in the Legislature disagree. State Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, who hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, this fall, backs Amendment Two. Schupp says it will ensure that an additional 300,000 Missourians have access to health care.

State Rep. Keri Ingle, D-Lee’s Summit, spoke about the issue on the Missouri House floor during the May budget debate. Ingle predicted that day that Missourians would approve Medicaid expansion at the ballot box.

Meantime, the coronavirus outbreak has impacted Missouri’s Medicaid numbers, as well as the budget.

The number of Missourians on Medicaid has increased by about 75,000 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online statistics from the state Department of Social Services (DSS) show there were about 848,000 Missouri Medicaid enrollees in February.

That number increased to about 923,000 in May.

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