Medicaid expansion in Missouri has been the topic of conversation for quite some time, but what exactly would this expansion mean for Macon?
According to Samaritan Hospital CEO Bern Orman, there is little downside to the expansion and a whole lot of upside.
"We have several individuals who are not able to pay their bills or do not have any health insurance," said Orman. "So when they come to our emergency room or to a hospital for care they are treated regardless of if they have healthcare insurance or not. We always take care of the individual. Expansion would mean that instead of writing that off with no reimbursement there will be some reimbursement for that care. It may not be a lot, but it will certainly be a help."
The Medicaid expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act that was passed in 2010. It was designed to include uninsured people with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty level in taxpayer-supported coverage. Under the U.S. Supreme Court decision, each state can decide whether or not to participate.
Governor Jay Nixon is in support of the expansion. He believes the proposal will bring $5.7 billion to Missouri and provide health coverage to an additional 300,000 Missourians over the next three years at no cost to the state. And Orman agrees.
"It is going to increase jobs and it will mean more tax dollars for the state," says Orman. "If people get beyond the political side of it and read the information surrounding what it will do for the residents of Missouri and for the economics for the state of Missouri, then I think most people will support it."
But not everyone is for the expansion. Senator Kurt Schaefer fears that broken financial promises by the federal government would push costs on the state. The Senate Appropriations Committee even defeated legislation authorizing a Medicaid expansion on Wednesday in addition to the House Budge Committee defeating two amendments that would have added the Medicaid expansion to the next state budget.
Many officials are hesitant to pass Medicaid because after the first three years, the price match will no longer be 100-0. It will eventually shift to 90-10, which makes many officials question how the state will be able to afford paying that 10 percent. However, if the expansion is not passed in Missouri, the Missouri Hospital Association estimates that passing up this opportunity will cost the state 9,000 jobs and increase health insurance premiums for families and businesses by more than $1 billion.
Congressman Sam Graves wished to not comment on the expansion. According to Communications Director Chris Averill, "he thinks it's the governors and state lawmakers to decide."
Even if Medicaid expansion does not pass, Orman believes it will not have a negative effect on care given at Samaritan Hospital. "Even if we didn't receive additional funds we are still going to care for those individuals who need the care," said Orman. "We will just have to write it off."