If Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon came to Hannibal Monday seeking support for his plan to strengthen Medicaid in the state, he didn’t leave America’s Hometown disappointed.
“I agree completely with the governor,” said Todd Ahrens, president and CEO of Hannibal Regional Healthcare System. “The Hannibal Regional Healthcare System is a big supporter of the concept of expanding Medicaid. We face significant cuts as a result of the actions the federal government has taken, whether that’s due to the sequester or fiscal cliff, or other reimbursement payments we’re losing as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re a strong organization, but losing some of that reimbursement would cause some issues that we would need to be ready for. The best way around that would be for Medicaid to be expanded.”
Dr. Sandra Ahlum, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology at the Hannibal Clinic, says women are particularly bad about putting off seeking health care, especially when a lack of insurance is an issue.
“They take care of their family, they take care of their kids and then finally they get to be seen. Sometimes they have to go to the emergency room, which is a very expensive place to go for care, but that’s the only thing that’s left to them,” she said. “If by this expansion of Medicaid we can get women in earlier for preventative care and to see physicians early, it can prevent cancers and other major things that are expensive for the whole system.”
Expanding Medicaid will benefit law enforcement agencies who frequently find themselves dealing with people with mental health issues.
“Far too many times we see a subject who has a mental health crisis, who ends up in the county jail with us. That’s not a place for him or her when a mental health crisis is going on,” said Marion County Sheriff Jimmy Shinn. “We believe and hope with the money that is going to be enacted that we will be able to have more assistance, whether it’s through Hannibal Regional or another state facility, to take these individuals to.”
During Monday’s appearance, Nixon noted that a number of business and economic development organizations have endorsed the strengthening of Medicaid. While the Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce supports Medicaid expansion, it does so without playing politics.
“The Hannibal Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has voted to support Medicaid expansion and the benefit it provides to the Hannibal Regional Health System,” said Paul Ewert, president-elect of the Hannibal chamber. “We don’t support a specific plan, either the governor’s or the Republican alternative to it. We support providing access to health care for all the members of our community.
Page 2 of 2 - “We support the hospital. In listening to the governor, if the state does not do Medicaid expansion it will hurt the hospital. We want to promote whatever is best for Hannibal Regional Hospital.”
Ahrens stresses that the expansion of Medicaid in Missouri should not be a political issue.
“This is an important social issue. I don’t think this is a partisan issue. It’s not about being a Republican or Democrat,” he said. “An important part of how we meet our mission is to improve the health of the community we serve. The people that would be able to access Medicaid, if the eligibility requirements are expanded, are not able to do so (now). We’re still going to be caring for those people in the ER and they don’t have the means to get care in that setting. We’re interested in trying to get these people on insurance where they have access to primary care, so that when they need health care it’s not for a tragic illness that’s going to be very costly to treat. We can try to promote wellness and healthiness in our community.”