Southwest Missourians join in support of Medicaid expansion ballot initiative in Springfield

Medical professionals and community leaders in southwest Missouri’s largest city came together Wednesday to add their voices to the growing chorus of support for the statewide campaign to place Medicaid expansion on the November general election ballot.

"As doctors, our pledge and our duty is to provide healthcare for every individual and family that seeks medical care," said Dr. Kayce Morton, a Jordan Valley Community Health Center pediatrician. "But too often, we see patients when their medical situation has become dire, because they did not have access to healthcare and had to choose between food or shelter versus medical care. Too many families in the Ozarks are in the Medicaid gap and do not have access to affordable healthcare."

"The Fairbanks Community Center is about community betterment for all in Springfield," said Amy Blansit, co-founder of the center, which hosted Wednesday’s news conference.

"And the Drew Lewis Foundation (named for Blansit’s late husband) is committed to improving the quality of life in underserved urban neighborhoods," she added. "But the physical and mental well-being of families in the Ozarks cannot be met if healthcare needs are not met. Our center and foundation strongly endorses the expansion of Medicaid in Missouri so that more families have the access to healthcare that they desperately need."

Springfield is the latest community to publicly show its support to expand Medicaid in Missouri, following similar recent events in Kansas City, Joplin, Hannibal and Kirksville. The campaign anticipates similar stops across the state in the coming weeks and months.

To date, more than 150 organizations have endorsed Medicaid expansion, including the Missouri Nurses Association, the Missouri NAACP State Conference and the United Way of Greater Kansas City.

Medicaid expansion in Missouri would help provide health coverage to more than 230,000 uninsured adults in the state, the overwhelming majority of whom work at jobs that don’t provide health coverage, by extending eligibility to individuals earning less than $18,000 a year. That cohort includes 50,000 parents and 18,000 near retirees.

It would bring more than $1 billion of our tax dollars home from Washington each year, create thousands of jobs and boost the state’s economy.

Thirty-six states have already opted to expand Medicaid, including neighboring Arkansas, where officials reported using savings from expansion to cut state income taxes and reduce payments previously allocated to the uninsured.

The Missouri border states of Illinois, Kentucky, Nebraska and Iowa have also opted for Medicaid expansion.

An expansive body of research shows that Medicaid expansion will not just save lives but could also save taxpayers money.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have shown that expansion could save our state more than $1 billion by 2026 by reducing many of the healthcare costs the state now pays.

And an analysis of Medicaid expansion in Arkansas, Indiana and Ohio shows how those states have used Medicaid-derived savings to cut income taxes, increase government efficiency and improve worker productivity.

That report concluded that Medicaid expansion in Missouri "can be designed to budget for savings and revenue opportunities that significantly exceed the state's cost of implementation."

Healthcare for Missouri continues to collect voter signatures with a goal of qualifying for the November general election. The campaign has collected more than 75 percent of the 172,000 valid voter signatures required for submission by early May.