Posted: Mar. 2, 2020 1:42 pm

HANNIBAL |Healthcare for Missouri officials believe they’ll easily gather enough petition signatures to get a Medicaid expansion question on ballots in November.

“By May 3rd we need to have about 170,000 (petition) signatures to get on the Nov. 2020 ballot. We’re more than 75 percent of the way there,” said Jack Cardetti, a spokesman for Healthcare for Missouri.

Cardetti made those comments Thursday afternoon at the Families and Communities Together building in Hannibal where some health care providers and pastors offered their support for an expansion. Several supporters said Medicaid expansion would be especially helpful in rural areas and could help prevent the closure of more rural hospitals.

“There have been 10 rural Missouri hospitals that have closed since 2014,” Cardetti said.

He said expansion of Medicaid – to 138 percent of the poverty level – would help hospitals by expanding the number of people getting health care. It also would help rural areas as hospitals stay viable, offering good jobs and an economic boost in areas where wages and incomes are low.

Todd Ahrens, CEO of Hannibal Regional Hospital, said many people living just above the poverty level do not get preventive medical care.

Beth Foster, a retired RN from Canton, said the proposed expansion would add about 230,000 to the Medicaid system. It also would “bring those tax dollars home” that currently go to Washington D.C., but don’t get returned to Missouri because it is among the 14 states which have not expanded Medicaid.

Pastors Jessica Foster of First United Methodist and Park United Methodist churches, and Linda Spaun of Scott’s Chapel United Methodist, both said it is the duty of government to care for the sick and the injured. Spaun said when she saw starting in the 1970s how serious illness often knocked people out of the middle class.

Gov. Mike Parson said Medicaid costs are budgeted at $11.1 billion, representing more than one third of the state’s overall spending. He has proposed an increase to $11.7 billion next year, even without an expansion. Parson said during his State of the State speech that it would take a “massive tax increase that Missourians can’t afford” to cover other necessities if Medicaid is expanded.

Nicole Galloway, the state auditor and a Democratic candidate for governor, has denied that Medicaid costs would siphon money away from education, transportation and other state programs.

Healthcare for Missouri launched the petition campaign after they said the Legislature repeatedly opposed Medicaid expansion. The Affordable Care Act made it possible for states to expand Medicaid coverage beyond the previous limits in 2010. States that choose to expand pay 10 percent of the costs initially, while the federal government pays 90 percent.

Missouri pays for 35 percent of Medicaid coverage at this time, with the federal government paying 65 percent. There are about 800,000 currently in the Medicaid system and those already enrolled would still be under the 65-35 funding formula. The addition of another 230,000 could qualify for 90-10 coverage.

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