On Tuesday, October 8th, The Subcommittee on Health Care Reform held a hearing for “Discussion on Medicaid and Medicaid expansion.” Rep. Helms from District 135 in Springfield is the chair of the committee. I testified on behalf of Empower Missouri, and you can find a copy of my testimony here.

You can find our full live recap of the hearing on our twitter feed. Be sure to follow us while you’re there. We keep our followers up-to-date on important state and national events, and we often live-tweet important hearings.

I want to share a few highlights from testimonies we heard at the hearing.

Dr. Ed Weisbart served on the Medicaid Expansion committee under Speaker Tim Jones in 2014 and was a witness in favor of expanding Medicaid. He said that, while in 2014 all his committee really had was anecdotes – a woman who could not afford oxygen; a young man who was rationing his insulin – we now have data that shows the issues with our current healthcare system and the effectiveness of expanding Medicaid. Data now shows that states that have expanded Medicaid are better at detecting cancer early and see a significant decrease in infant mortality. Dr. Weisbart also showed that recidivism (returning to prison again after the first sentence) has decreased in states that have expanded Medicaid. This is especially significant since criminal justice reform has been a source of successful bipartisan cooperation in the Missouri legislature over the last two sessions.

There were also witnesses there to oppose Missouri’s potential expansion of Medicaid. Greg Fister from the Foundation for Government Accountability, a Florida-based think tank, argued that healthcare available through employers was a better solution to Missouri’s healthcare crisis than expanding Medicaid.

“So your solution to the cost of healthcare is ‘get a job’?” asked Rep. Doug Clemens.

“Employment, yes,” replied Fister.

Dr. Abigail Barker is the faculty lead for data and methods at the Center for Health Economics and Policy at the Institute for Public Health at Washington University, St. Louis. She testified for informational purposes. The extensive research done by her and her team has shown that, if Missouri were to expand Medicaid in the state, the best estimates show that the state would save $38.9 million dollars.

I walked away from that hearing with assurance that Empower Missouri’s decision to sign on to the petition initiative campaign to improve access to Medicaid in Missouri was the right choice for us to make. No other solution has been presented that would help cover as many people or have the potential to save the state almost $40 million. There is a chance that the General Assembly, guided by this committee, will attempt to pass something that looks sort of similar to what the ballot initiative is calling for, in order to suppress support for it. I think any Missourian who wants fewer of their neighbors struggling due to medical costs should participate in signature gathering for the measure and  vote “Yes” on an improved Medicaid system in 2020.

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