Since 2017, more than 90,000 children and 23,000 adults have been dropped from Medicaid in the state of Missouri. That’s more than 100,000 families without access to potentially life-saving medical care, including basic reproductive healthcare services.

This sudden drop-off is not due to an improving economy, but a mixture of faulty systems and an unwillingness in our state legislature to expand coverage to those who need affordable care: communities of low-income, people with disabilities, and pregnant people.

Fighting for increased access to quality, low-cost health care, including birth control, STI treatment and testing, and life-saving cancer screenings, starts with bold conversations. With many spending time with family and friends this holiday season, here’s how you can have a meaningful conversation on expanding Medicaid access in Missouri. 

 

What is Medicaid and who qualifies? 

Medicaid was created to provide care to children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable communities, but there’s a significant gap between the amount of individuals who need this care and how many are actually eligible. Right now, for individuals to qualify for Medicaid in the state, all adults must have incomes of 138% of the Federal Poverty Level or below. 

This means individuals must bring in less than $17,000 and households must bring in less than $26,000 a year to qualify for Medicaid. However, this is decidedly much too low of a threshold, and leaves too many people out.

 

Who’s expanding Medicaid and who isn’t

Missouri is one of only 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid. Illinois expanded Medicaid in 2013 and brought an additional 650,000 people to their program. Missouri had the opportunity to do so as early as 2012, but instead of helping people, the state is allowing more and more people, including those 90,000 children, to fall through the cracks.

Research from the University of Michigan shows that expanding Medicaid substantially reduced mortality rates in those states. Illinois has avoided an average of 345 deaths a year under their expanded Medicaid program, while Missouri added 194. 

Not only would expanding Medicaid cover an additional 255,000 people, but according to our friends at Jobs with Justice, expanding Medicaid would create 24,000 new jobs in the state and prevent the closure of rural hospitals. Furthermore, Missouri Health Care For All reports that in just the past six months, hospitals have either cut or kept vacant more than 3,000 jobs statewide. Expanding Medicaid will bring back these jobs and create thousands more.

 

The fight to expand Medicaid 

NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri is committed to improving access to care across the state, and has been collecting signatures to put Medicaid Expansion on the ballot for the past five months. We’ve successfully gathered more than 4,000 signatures as of mid-December 2019, thanks to the hard work our canvassers have done, totaling around 1,200 hours this year.

Some may be confused as to why NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri, an organization dedicated to reproductive freedom, would invest so heavily into expanding Medicaid. The reality is: we’re committed to all aspects of reproductive justice, and believe in access to affordable healthcare coverage, including the critical preventive care and essential health services provided by Medicaid. The NARAL Missouri community is invested in creating a world where no family is forced to choose between putting food on the table or getting the care they deserve. This aspect of reproductive justice requires that everyone has access to quality health care, and expanding Medicaid in the state is one giant step closer to meeting that goal.

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