KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missourians will decide next Tuesday whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program.
Fran Marion, a 40-year-old Kansas City resident, has two teenagers. She’s also a manager at a local fast food restaurant, but the single mom says she can’t afford health insurance.
“You’re already having to balance what we make between rent, lights, gas, keeping food in your house, clothes my kids back,” she said. “It would just incur another bill I just can’t afford.”
Marion wants voters in Missouri to vote yes on Amendment 2 on Aug. 4. If passed, supporters said more than 200,000 Missourians would gain access to health care.
“We need health care. It’s not a want; it’s a need,” she said. “It’s time for us to act now as a community.”
The amendment to the state’s constitution would expand Medicaid to include residents between the ages of 19 and 64 – whose income is at or below 133% of the federal poverty level. That’s roughly $18,000 in income for a single person and around $35,000 for a family of four.
“It’s to cover people in the gap who can’t presently get health insurance, can’t get on the Affordable Care Act because they fall in the gap between what’s a ridiculous low level of poverty and those who are clearly above the range for the Affordable Care Act,” said Rabbi Doug Alpert, who supports the measure.
“It’s an additional incentive to not finding a job if you have free health care,” Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick said.
On Monday, Fitzpatrick and Republican lawmakers toured the state urging residents to vote against the measure, arguing that the state’s current Medicaid coverage makes up 40% of the budget.
“There’s no funding with it, and there’s no cost associated with it,” Fitzpatrick said.
Opponents, including Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, said a Medicaid expansion could mean cuts elsewhere.
“Less money for kids, less money for police, less money for roads and bridges and less money for those who are most in need,” added State Rep. Cody Smith, who also chairs the House Budget Committee.
“We would be using tax dollars for future generations to pay for abled body working age adults to have free health care. I believe that’s bad fiscal policy, budgetary policy and for those reasons I will be voting no.” he continued.
Supporters believe health care is a right, not a “handout.”
“The Legislature finds money for all kind of pork and when it comes to things that really matter, that are really human rights and obligations, then they scream that they just don’t have the money,” Alpert said.
For Marion, gaining health care means a chance to live to see her children’s children grow up.
“And at the pace we’re at with health care, I don’t see that happening,” she said.
AARP and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce support Amendment 2. The chamber, citing economic projections wrote “expanding Missouri’s Medicaid program will boost job creation by 16,000 jobs per year for five years. Likewise, passage will expand our state’s economic output by $2.5 billion.”
Thirty-seven states have already expanded Medicaid.