The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

December 23, 2013

Our View: Expansion alternative

— Expanding Medicaid in Missouri so the Affordable Care Act, now law, can work as it was intended must be the course for our state legislators.

So far, that hasn’t happened, but it looks like the Department of Health and Human Services has opened a door for compromise. Border state Iowa has found an alternative that we hope Republican legislators will consider.

Earlier this month, the federal Department of Health and Human Services told Iowa that it will approve its request for a waiver that would allow it to expand Medicaid, but in a way that is different that what is called for in the Affordable Care Act.

Instead of adding people making less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, Iowa wants to expand Medicaid to people making 100 percent or less of the federal poverty rate.

Currently Missouri’s Republican legislators are unwilling to expand Medicaid in this state even though there is additional federal money under the new health care law if Medicaid is expanded to adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level — about $32,500 for a family of four.

Without the expansion, Missouri’s Medicaid program currently covers custodial parents earning up to 19 percent of the poverty level, or about $4,475 annually. It doesn’t cover adults without children in their homes.

Rep Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, is heading up a committee that is developing a package that would expand eligibility for adults.

The news out of Iowa should be of great interest to that committee.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce is pushing legislators to expand Medicaid, as are hospitals across the state.

Missouri should follow the provisions of the Affordable Care Act or develop an alternative. By doing nothing, state government is keeping many of its residents from having the opportunity to get health coverage.

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