Forum discusses expansion, limits of Medicaid in Missouri

Monday, March 11, 2013 | 10:28 p.m. CDT; updated 5:49 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, March 12, 2013

COLUMBIA — Missouri residents without children, no matter their income, are not eligible for Medicaid. A mother with one child who makes more than $2,808 a year is not eligible for Medicaid, either. 

"One of the misconceptions out there is that the current Medicaid program already covers low-income Missourians and that (the Affordable Care Act) expansion would expand the program to more middle-income Missourians," Ryan Barker, the vice president of health policy at Missouri Foundation for Health, said Monday night at a Medicaid forum.

The forum is one of eight forums that the nonpartisan organization is hosting around the state to educate people on Medicaid expansion created by the Affordable Care Act.

A court ruling last year gave states the option to expand their Medicaid programs. Missouri legislators are debating whether to accept the federal funding. The funding would cover 100 percent of Missouri's Medicaid program through 2016 and then lower the funding to 90 percent by 2020, Barker said. 

The expansion would target two main groups: parents and childless adults. Individuals in these groups would be eligible for Medicaid if their income was 133 percent of the federal poverty level or below. For a family of two, this would be $20,628 annual income. Under the current Medicaid program, parents are only covered if their income is 18 percent of the federal poverty level, and childless adults are not covered at all.

"We're talking about low-wage workers who don't get any insurance at work, or they can't afford it," Barker said. "For the most part, these are working Missourians that are not eligible." 

Barker encouraged participants to contact their state representatives, regardless of their position on the issue.  

"What we hear in Jefferson City is that they are sick of all the lobbyists telling them they need to do this or that, but they want to hear from their communities back home," he said. 

Sixty-five people signed up for the event, and about 45 people attended. 

Chris Hartigan, a family nurse practitioner at the Family Health Center, said he attended the meeting to better educate himself on the topic. He said he sees a lot of people who are against the Affordable Care Act but who could benefit from Medicaid expansion. 

"I think it is primarily emotional, and not imperial or data-driven, how people make their decisions, and this includes the legislature," Hartigan said. "I would hope that people could look at this more objectively." 

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