COLUMBIA — The debate over Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposed Medicaid expansion came to MU's Trulaske College of Business on Thursday when the governor and representatives of the university and Regional Economic Development Inc. gathered to urge the legislature to go along with the plan.
REDI President Mike Brooks, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton and Vice Chancellor of MU Health Systems Harold Williamson Jr. attended the news conference.
Nixon is urging the legislature to allow Missouri to opt into the Medicaid option under the Affordable Care Act. Opting into the program would extend coverage to an additional 300,000 Missourians, mostly women and children. The expansion comes with a $5.7 billion price tag that would be covered by the federal government at no cost to the state for the first three years of the program.
Brooks attended the news conference to announce his organization’s endorsement of Nixon’s proposal. REDI members, he said, believe Medicaid expansion would be a good business decision for the state.
“Here in Columbia and throughout Boone County, health care providers are a major part of our economy, employing thousands of workers and generating significant economic activity,” Brooks said.
Citing a recent study completed by MU that found the expansion would create 24,000 new health care jobs, Brooks said REDI sees it as plus for Columbia.
“This (expansion) means more doctors, nurses, specialists, EMTs and lab techs would be living in and working in our communities,” Brooks said.
REDI is joining other chambers of commerce and economic development organizations in its endorsement of the proposal.
Acknowledging stiff resistance from Republicans to the Medicaid expansion and to Obama's larger health care initiatives, Nixon said the time for political grandstanding is over.
“This transcends politics,” Nixon said. “This is not the time to reopen the debate on the merit of the president’s health care plan. Congress passed it, the president signed it, and the Supreme Court upheld it. It is now the law of the land.”
Another law of the land is one that requires doctors and medical professionals to treat all patients, even those without health insurance. Providing care to the uninsured comes at a heavy cost for the MU Health System.
“Last year we alone we provided over $33 million in uncompensated care for uninsured Missourians,” Williamson said. “Our emergency rooms recorded over 51,000 visits during the last fiscal year.”
Nixon said he is working to inform the public about why the Medicaid expansion is so important for Missouri.
“The question before us now is will we bring the tax dollars we sent to Washington back home to strengthen the Medicaid system here in Missouri, or will we allow the tax dollars Missourians send to Washington to go to other states to get the benefits, while Missourians only get the bill?” Nixon said.
Deaton agreed with Nixon's assessment of the ideological debate over the Affordable Care Act.
“Gov. Nixon is right: The time for the ideological debate is over,” Deaton said. “Now is the time to craft a policy which responds to the national policy and is best for this state.”
As the state’s flagship institution, Deaton said MU administrators and staff have an obligation to educate the state on the effects of Medicaid expansion.
“We will be entering the debate from an educational perspective,” Deaton said. “This is why we have these centers of higher education and learning — to take complex issues and inform the public of policy implications.”
Despite concerns about whether the federal government will follow through on its funding promises, Nixon said he is willing to work to with the legislature to draft a proposal that would allow the state to back out if the federal money doesn't materialize.
Nixon said the Missouri General Assembly first must draft a proposal that would bring the money to the state.
“If we take a pass, then that money will go to other states,” Nixon said. “Quite frankly, I want Missouri dollars to be spent benefiting the people of Missouri. As we look at this as a business decision, it would be a big win for our economy.”
Karen Edison is the director for the Center for Health Policy at MU. She discusses alternative models to Medicaid in the video below:
Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.