The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 6, 2013

Other Views: Listen to those in need

Kansas City Star

— In the state capitols of Missouri and Kansas, elected officials dither over expanding Medicaid. For them, the debate is about numbers, future budgets, free market arguments, and the merits and flaws of the federal Affordable Care Act.

For Kierra Hawkins, it is about the fist-sized cyst on her right ovary.

Hawkins, a 23-year-old community college student in Kansas City, was at her job as an aide in a day care center when acute stomach pains sent her to the hospital in late September. Tests detected the cyst and found it was not cancerous. Still, doctors said it would need to be removed.

Hawkins skipped her follow-up doctor’s visit. She is uninsured and couldn’t afford the $350 initial copay, much less the entire bill.

Fortunately, Truman Medical Center has approved her application for a charity discount. Hawkins is to see a doctor this month.

Her cyst would have been detected in a routine gynecological exam, but she hasn’t had one since age 18. Her job pays about $1,200 a month, and offers no health benefits. She has looked into insurance policies but finds them too expensive. ...

Hawkins is about 20 credits away from earning an associate’s degree in early childhood education. She hopes that will propel her into a better-paying job with health benefits.

For now, an expansion of Medicaid limits to the threshold called for in the Affordable Care Act, 133 percent of the federal poverty level, would get her the care she needs.

In Missouri, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon wants to expand Medicaid eligibility, while some in the Republican-controlled legislature are trying to insure more people with a market-based approach.

In Kansas, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is mum on the topic, while key GOP lawmakers seem inclined to reject an expansion out of hand. ...

Around the nation, governors and legislators are putting aside political ideologies and realizing that, from fiscal and humane standpoints, expanding Medicaid limits is the right thing to do. For Missouri and Kansas to do otherwise would be cruel and irresponsible.

Kansas City Star