GUEST COMMENTARY: Expanding Medicaid will improve care, create jobs

Saturday, March 30, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

The Missouri Nurses Association urges our legislators to expand Medicaid so that Missourians’ tax dollars stay in Missouri to care for Missouri citizens and create Missouri jobs.

Every day, Missouri nurses care for patients without health insurance in every corner of our state – from our urban centers to our most remote rural communities. Every day, Missouri nurses witness the all-too-familiar stories of individuals and families choosing between food and medicine or just plain doing without the care they so desperately need. They suffer needlessly. Sometimes they die. Sometimes their problems could have been easily treated, or even prevented, had they received care earlier. Medicaid expansion will save lives and provide much needed care.

The Missouri Nurses Association urges our legislators to support expanding Medicaid, so that Missouri doesn’t lose our tax dollars to other states. We recognize there are significant objections to the Affordable Care Act. However, the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court, and last year’s elections have guaranteed that the impacts from the act are real. This is no longer about politics. It is about the financial health of our economy and the physical and mental health of our citizens.

Under the Affordable Care Act and the Budget Control Act of 2011, Missouri hospitals are facing cuts of $4 billion in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements between 2013 and 2019. According to a study by the Missouri Hospital Association, failure to expand Medicaid will hurt Missouri by costing the state more than 9,000 jobs in addition to the closure of many rural hospitals. This significant blow to the economy will be felt in every community, in every corner of our state.

An MU study found that expanding and strengthening Medicaid will create 24,000 new jobs in Missouri in 2014 alone. That means more nurses will be available to provide care to you and your loved ones. And we will even have the potential to invest more resources into nursing education, improving our nursing workforce into the future.

It’s time for legislators to put the political fights of the past behind them and focus on doing what’s best for Missouri. The Missouri legislature can offset these cuts and prevent hospital closings by expanding Medicaid to bring our share of federal dollars back home.

With our dollars back home in Missouri, we will put them to work creating jobs, growing the economy and preventing health care costs from skyrocketing. Expanding Medicaid will create 10,000 health care jobs in Missouri. These are good jobs that will mean more economic activity in every community.

The Missouri legislature still has time to make the right decision for Missouri. The right decision for Missouri health care. The right decision for Missouri patients: Expand Medicaid.

Rebecca Payne McClanahan, MSN, RN, is the president of the Missouri Nurses Association.

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