Think about your neighbor who is uninsured, caring for an aging parent, and juggling a part-time job. Picture your server, at the corner restaurant, who gets no benefits and does not qualify for Medicaid or subsidies for Obamacare. Likely, we all know someone who lacks health insurance. Medicaid expansion would keep our friends, family members, and neighbors insured and healthier. The St. Louis Regional Health Commission (RHC), therefore, is excited to announce that on May 1, 2020, Healthcare for Missouri submitted hundreds of thousands of signatures to the State of Missouri to get Medicaid expansion on the November 2020 ballot. The RHC celebrates this momentous step towards health equity and improved health outcomes for Missourians. But we still need you! While this is the first step in a victory for the state, Missourians still need to vote for Medicaid expansion this fall.
Currently, Missouri’s Medicaid eligibility requirements are some of the strictest in the country. Nearly 600,000 Missourians, or almost 1 in 10 , do not have health insurance. If you are an adult, age 19-64, living in poverty (without children or a pregnancy, visual impairment, or disability), you do not qualify for Medicaid. Medicaid expansion would cover an additional 230,000 Missourians, including people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and asthma. Expansion would extend eligibility and cover adults earning less than $18,000 per year as an individual, and less than $30,000 for a family of three (138% of the federal poverty level). As part of our mission to increase access to health care, reduce health disparities, and improve health outcomes in the St. Louis region, the RHC supports Medicaid expansion and endorses Healthcare for Missouri’s campaign to secure Medicaid expansion in Missouri.
RHC’s program called Gateway to Better Health (GBH) has demonstrated that increased coverage correlates with improved access to health care. GBH members rely on their coverage to access health care services. GBH patient and provider surveys show that members could not keep their overall health the same, access quality medical care, afford prescription medicines, or afford to see a primary care doctor or specialist without the program. One GBH member explains, “I had cancer last year, and Gateway came through for me all the way up to my one year follow up. I am very grateful.”Medicaid expansion would provide coverage to the GBH patient population as well as thousands more throughout the state, amplifying GBH’s positive impact on health care access. While GBH is a critical program, its geographic reach is limited. One GBH provider poignantly stated, “We need Medicaid expansion. Gateway is a Band-Aid on a water main explosion.”
Medicaid expansion could also improve health outcomes, as GBH’s data demonstrates for its patients with chronic diseases. For example, since the start of the program, GBH patients with diabetes saw a significant reduction in HgbA1c levels (signifying improved control of the disease). Additionally, 93% of GBH primary care providers and 71% of GBH patients believe that the overall health of GBH members has improved since enrolling in the program. These life-saving results in St. Louis could be achieved across the entire state by expanding Medicaid. Other states have also shown that Medicaid improves health outcomes and reduces overall mortality, while decreasing health disparities.
The RHC’s Medical Director, Heidi B. Miller, MD, explains the impact Medicaid expansion would have on her uninsured patients at a local community health center and all Missourians: “Expanding Medicaid is more than providing insurance; it is implementing the right to health care and the means to optimize health. As a primary care doctor, I cringe at having to alter care for a patient who is uninsured; however, it is our current reality. With each medical encounter, I look at the patient’s name, I look at vital signs, and then I have to look at insurance status. It’s like an extra vital sign. It dictates where I can send the prescription and which tools are accessible to me. If there’s no health insurance, I feel like my hands are tied.” As a region and as a state, we must ensure the right to health for the most marginalized and low-income communities. When our neighbors are healthier, we are all healthier.
If you believe in relying on evidence to make health policy decisions and improving access to health care and health, then you support Medicaid expansion in Missouri. Visit healthcareformissouri.org to learn more about the positive impact Medicaid expansion would have on our community, and most importantly, vote this fall in favor of Medicaid expansion in Missouri.
The RHC supports Medicaid expansion for the state of Missouri and endorses the statewide campaign, led by Healthcare for Missouri, to bring the decision to Missourians on the 2020 ballot.