Medicaid discussion

Included in the provisions of the Health Care Reform Law was a provision that every state would expand its Medicaid program. But last summer, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government can’t mandate such a requirement, and that it is up to individual states to make the spending determinations.
Ryan Baker, vice president of health policy for the Missouri Foundation for Health, visited Hannibal Monday evening in order to conduct a town-hall meeting explaining the Medicaid expansion issue that is now under consideration in the Missouri legislature.
Barker explained that the MFH is a non-partisan foundation intent upon offering the facts on both sides of this funding issue, so that citizens can form their own opinions on what direction their lawmakers should take.
“There are important questions out there,” Barker said. “The community should have a discussion and know the facts.” He said the MFH’s mission is to give people information; not to lobby on one side of the issue or the other.
Hannibal is the first town hall meeting scheduled; six others are scheduled. “I talk about pros and cons, points on both sides,” he said.
He said 20 people had responded they will be in attendance, following information in the media and an advertisement in the Courier-Post. Those who responded were health care providers and private citizens alike.
If Missouri does not expand Medicaid coverage, he said there will be a doughnut hole effect. The working poor will not be eligible for Medicaid, but they will also not receive the health insurance subsidies originally written into the law.
Another big argument, he said, is that hospitals can’t turn away someone at the emergency room. Currently, hospitals serving the poor receive some money to help compensate for this service. Known as DSH, those funds have been allocated elsewhere because of the pending legislation. DSH money won’t be available in the future, Barker said.
An argument against the expansion of Medicaid, he said, is that this country is $16 trillion in debt. “Do we continue to spend money we may or may not have? Is this the best use of our money, or should we strengthen the economy and pay down debt, or use the money for other things?”
The Missouri Foundation for Health is an agency that distributes grants across the state. Some money goes to filling the gap for the uninsured and underinsured. A division of the foundation is devoted to research and education, and to inform and educate lawmakers.
Funding goes to health care providers and community organizations, and for areas such as childhood obesity, tobacco cessation, primary care services and mental health.