WHAT OTHERS SAY: Job creator says Missouri legislature wrong about Medicaid

Thursday, July 3, 2014 | 3:59 p.m. CDT

Over the past two years, a small faction of Missouri Republicans has blocked Medicaid expansion in the state, despite overwhelming evidence that besides being the right and moral thing to do, it also would be a boon for the state’s economy.

They ignored an MU study that predicted the influx of billions of federal dollars into the state’s health care sector would create tens of thousands of jobs and an increase in other economic activity.

They ignored a report from fellow Republican Jay Barnes, a House member who has been leading a GOP guerrilla effort to pass Medicaid expansion, that showed the move would actually improve the state’s general revenue picture for several years.

They ignored state economic development studies and actual results in states that have expanded Medicaid and seen improved economic activity.

They ignored the simple moral imperative that when more people have health insurance, fewer people die.

Perhaps a letter from a job creator will do the trick.

Paul Taylor is the chief executive officer of Ozarks Community Hospital, located in the Republican hotbed of Springfield, Mo. The health system operates in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas. It has, for now, at least, about 800 employees.

Mr. Taylor recently informed Missouri’s Dislocated Worker Program that Ozarks Community Hospital is about to lay off employees in the state.

The reason? No Medicaid expansion.

The company is adding jobs in Arkansas, which has agreed to a Medicaid expansion similar to the one Mr. Barnes has proposed, and state Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, has supported. They can’t even get a vote in the House or Senate.

Mr. Taylor’s letter isn’t a prediction of something hypothetical. It’s a real letter from a real CEO laying out how Missouri’s legislature has chosen to be a job killer.

“The layoffs will occur solely in the Springfield hospital and clinics. In fact, we recently added 62 (jobs) at our hospital and clinic in northwest Arkansas,” Mr. Taylor wrote.

“The reason we are hiring in Arkansas and laying off in Missouri is that Arkansas chose to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and Missouri did not. We certainly wish it were otherwise. … Unfortunately, even if Missouri expands Medicaid in the future, it will be virtually impossible for us to recapture this loss of capacity. Hospitals cannot shrink and expand as readily as other industries. I fear that Missouri will never recover the ground it is now losing statewide as a result of political posturing.”

Missouri Republicans said they opposed “Obamacare” because they might not have the money for it some day in the future. Tax breaks for “job creators” came first.

This one job creator says they got it wrong.

Maybe they’ll finally listen next year. How many more jobs and people will they have to kill?

Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.

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