Missouri Medicaid News

Spring Break 2015: Missouri. In-district actions show local demand for Medicaid expansion.

Legislative inaction hasn't sat well for numerous Missourians across the state who have urged the Missouri legislature to expand Medicaid. Over Spring Break, community leaders have led several in-district events to raise awareness and urge legislators to close the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid this session.

KY3: Locals meet to urge action on Medicaid Expansion

In Springfield and across the state, Missourians hold in-district actions to highlight the importance of Medicaid expansion this session. Crystal Williams with Missouri Health Care for All stated, "Our legislators were elected to tackle the tough problems. There are many ideas on how to both reform and expand Medicaid and it is time our elected officials find a real solution to this problem. It's time to have the debate and close the coverage gap."

KC Star: Shelly Column: More benefits of Medicaid expansion under Obamacare emerge in diabetes study

Lawmakers in Missouri and Kansas who have been blocking Medicaid expansion don’t realize it, but they’ve been participating in a medical study.

Since 2013, researchers at Quest Diagnostics, the nation’s largest medical testing provider, have tracked patients newly identified with diabetes. Overall, they charted an increase of 1.6 percent in 2014 over 2013.

But in states that had expanded Medicaid eligibility to the limits called for in the Affordable Care Act, a dramatic number emerged. New diagnoses of diabetes within the Medicaid population increased by 23 percent.

In states like Missouri and Kansas, which refuse to make access to health care affordable to the working poor, the increase in newly diagnosed diabetes patients was less than 1 percent.

This means in the Medicaid expansion states, people are visiting doctors, getting tests and learning much earlier that they have a chronic disease that can cause catastrophic complications, especially if untreated. Access to affordable health care will keep them healthier and spare states from ultimately assuming the tremendous costs of severe disability. Persons critically ill with diabetes often end up in nursing homes, for instance.

Authors of the study, published in the Diabetes Care journal of the American Diabetes Association, wrote that similar findings were likely in diagnoses of other chronic diseases such of hypertension and kidney disease. Diagnoses of HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, has been found to be higher in Medicaid expansion states.

The Quest study is limited and somewhat opportunistic, but academic researchers told the New York Times they regarded the results as credible.

When drafting the Affordable Care Act, members of Congress had intended for all states to raise Medicaid eligibility limits to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. It was a crucial building block for getting health insurance to as many Americans as possible. In Missouri, only parents who make less than 19 percent of the poverty level are currently eligible. In Kansas, the threshold is 26 percent.

But a later Supreme Court ruling made Medicaid expansion optional for states. Unfortunately, 22 of them are still holding out, Missouri and Kansas among them.

Recalcitrant lawmakers and governors cite concerns about Medicaid’s cost and effectiveness as reasons not to expand Medicaid.

But the federal government will pay 100 percent of the expansion through 2016, and never less than 90 percent. States save money as Medicaid begins to cover certain populations, like indigent mentally ill individuals, who have up until now been a state responsibility. States also receive an economic boost from the federal dollars used to expand health care networks.

Studies are finding that states such as Kentucky and Arkansas, which expanded Medicaid early, are saving money.

Lawmakers who carp that Medicaid is ineffective and prone to fraud should take advantage of the federal money that comes with expansion to make their systems more efficient. And the results of the Diabetes Association study suggest that state Medicaid programs are having success in getting people tested and diagnosing expensive chronic diseases.

Rarely does a week go by without another study indicating the fiscal and medical benefits of Medicaid expansion. States that have it increasingly appear healthier and smarter. It’s time for Kansas and Missouri to move out of the comparison group.

MissouriNet: Medicaid protesters delay start of business in Missouri Senate

Echo Garrett of Cape Girardeau was one of the protesters at the Capitol on Thursday. She falls into the current coverage gap and needs treatment for arthritic knees. “An 11-minute visit with a specialist was $383-dollars. $383-dollars for somebody that is making $7.50 an hour,” said Garrett. The Missouri legislature is standing between hard-working Missourians like Ms Garrett from accessing the healthcare she needs.