The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 22, 2013

Our View: Medicaid and the now what

The Joplin Globe

— When the Missouri General Assembly returns to Jefferson City next week, House members will start consideration of a budget that contains no provision for the Medicaid expansion urged by Gov. Jay Nixon.

Republican leadership in the House and Senate — representing veto-proof majorities in both chambers — has been steadfast in insisting the budget will not include measures allowing the addition of 300,000 Missouri residents to Medicaid rolls.

Nixon and others backing the move have insisted the step would boost the state’s economy and help members of the working poor who cannot afford insurance coverage. The expansion has the support of a broad coalition of business groups that often side with Republicans, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and about 30 other chambers from across the state.

Medical and hospital groups also have pushed the expansion. They say hospitals will take a financial hit without the expansion, making it even more difficult to provide uncompensated care for the uninsured who often end up in emergency rooms.

A number of Republican governors also have signed on to the plan, notably Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio and Jan Brewer of Arizona. Hardly a fan of President Barack Obama, Brewer is saying she favors the expansion because it would restore cuts made by Arizona earlier.

Missouri also cut Medicaid coverage during the administration of Republican Gov. Matt Blunt.

House Speaker Tim Jones, in Joplin to meet with a business group earlier this week, repeated his opposition, arguing the federal government cannot afford to follow through on its pledge to pay the lion’s share of state costs in the expansion. The same prediction has been made by state Rep. Tom Flanigan, of Carthage, who is vice chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Jones said he would rather the federal government give Missouri more power to restructure its Medicaid program, saying he believes savings can be realized through better technology and cutting waste.

He did not say how those potential savings would be used and whether they could go to include more people in the program. We’d like to know what the Legislature intends to do, especially since a number of other states are signing on to the expansion plan.

Jones, addressing Joplin leaders, focused most of his remarks on the need for tax cuts he said the Legislature should make to help business and boost the state’s economy.

Nixon has said Medicaid expansion will create new jobs in the state, and without it, Missouri businesses will be at a competitive disadvantage.

We wish there would be agreement about what is best for the state, its people and its economy in this situation.