As I look back in my life, one specific policy has impacted nearly every decision I’ve ever made: Healthcare. I was a single mom during Obama’s first campaign. I worked two jobs which barely covered rent. Even while working more than 40 hours a week in a hospital, I didn’t have healthcare. I pieced together community supports, a sliding scale clinic when I had the flu, a visit to Planned Parenthood to address a lump in my armpit (it was fine), lots of consulting Dr. Google. I celebrated the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, until I quickly realized I fell into the coverage gap. I made too much money for Medicaid, but there wasn’t a marketplace plan that was affordable to me either. I ultimately continued to be uninsured for several more years.
My story is not unique. All across Missouri households and communities have struggled to tackle the extensive health care costs which burden so many families. This is part of why I was excited to canvas and door knock for Medicaid expansion in Missouri, more than a decade after the ACA was implemented. Our neighbors stood up and voted in support of expanding healthcare to thousands of Missouri residents in the gap- to support those individuals and the healthcare system as a whole.
So why has the Missouri legislature continued to ignore those voices and fight against healthcare access for our communities? Last legislative session, the lawmakers attempted to simply not fund the expanded population. The courts told them they have to. They have reduced funding to the Department so significantly that applications are not being processed. And now again they are attempting to overrule the will of our voters by trying to build a loophole that allows the legislature to decide each year to fund or not fund Medicaid expansion. Sponsor Cody Smith is attempting to create 3 ‘categories’ of Medicaid recipients, only funding the program for the category he feels is worthy.
If Representative Smith and other lawmakers get their way, our state will once again pay for another round of Medicaid expansion voting. However, I knew what I meant when I voted in support the first time- and so did you. Our state lawmakers are expending pretty significant resources to avoid following the will of the people- especially on an issue which has already been voted on and withstood a lawsuit.
Lawmakers are also trying to add work hour reporting to Medicaid, an issue Empower Missouri has spent years defending against. Healthcare is a human right, it is necessary to live, it is not a luxury which should only be provided to those who work for it. Work hour tracking is difficult to enforce, burdensome for our neighbors, and only succeeds in artificially removing people who couldn’t navigate the DSS infrastructure.
This issue has been decided and it is time to put it to bed. Our votes were clear- we want healthy communities full of thriving neighbors who don’t have to put off routine or emergency healthcare.