City officials and healthcare professionals call for medicaid expansion

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COLUMBIA - Medicaid expansion may be coming soon to the Show-Me State.

Citizens, health care professionals and city officials took to city hall Tuesday morning to persuade state officials for expansion of the health care service to more than 300,000 Missourians, especially those in rural communities.

Right now, Missourians who work at low-level jobs that don't make enough money to pay for health insurance aren't able to qualify for Medicaid, since they make too much to qualify for the current Medicaid levels. This means they go without health coverage for ailments they may have, or have to go to the emergency room, which costs the state and hospitals a lot.

Historically, the Republican Party has been opposed to legislation that would expand Medicare. Republicans have previously said expansion would not have a sweeping economic impact and could have negative long-term costs to the state.

"It is no secret that the Medicaid program in the state of Missouri is a broken system. Medicaid is unable to serve all of those who are currently enrolled into the system," said Representative Chuck Bayse (R-Rocheport) in an email. "It is my belief that expanding a broken system will do very little good for the people of Missouri. The legislature is working every day to find solutions to this broken system and to reform the Medicaid program."

While those against Medicaid argue it's an expensive program, Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid disagrees.

"It's money the federal government is sending out to the states," McDavid said. "From a logical standpoint, it does not feel logical to me that if the federal government offered four-hundred million dollars for roads that we would deny that money."

McDavid said the federal government will pay for 90-percent of the Medicaid expansion and this expansion will ultimately bring in jobs to Columbia, a city with strong ties to the health care industry.

Speakers at today's event said there are other bonuses of having Medicaid expansion, since there are a lot of issues happening at hospitals right now.

"It means waiting until problems get more severe, more difficult to treat, it means skimping on medication," said Dr. Andrew Quint, a physician at the Family Health Center of Boone County.

Currently to qualify for Medicaid. a family of three needs to make less than $292 a month. Medicaid expansion will make it so families of three making less than $2,310 a month, or $27,000 a year, will now qualify for the program.

Editors' Note: This story has been updated with comments from Representative Bayse