March 2013 Statement on Medicaid Expansion, to Missouri State Legislators

As religious leaders participating in the Interfaith Partnership of Greater St. Louis, we offer our prayers and moral support as you consider how to ensure access to healthcare for Missouri’s poorest and most vulnerable persons. We claim no special expertise in the technical aspects of federal healthcare law, including proposals to expand or reform Medicaid. However, we affirm that healthcare is a basic human right for every person and that too many people in our state are uninsured and don’t receive the regular medical care they need.

There are over 808,000 uninsured persons in Missouri, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 American Community Survey. About 94,000 of these uninsured are children. Behind these statistics are flesh and blood human beings – our brothers and sisters in faith. Too many of them end up addressing their health problems on a crisis-by-crisis basis with visits to crowded emergency rooms.

It does not have to be this way. If the uninsured had health insurance, they could make regular doctor visits, follow preventative health care measures and avoid costly interventions for untreated medical conditions. Access to regular medical care is essential if we are to have a healthier Missouri.

Currently, Missouri prohibits most poor parents from participating in Medicaid. In most circumstances, a mother with two children will not qualify for Medicaid if her annual income exceeds $4,584. This is far below the federal poverty line. By denying health coverage to mothers, we also harm their children for children are far more likely to be enrolled in Medicaid if their mother is also covered. We therefore urge you to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income parents.

Some suggest Missouri phase out its Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage for lower income children who do not qualify for Medicaid. About 45,000 of these children are in households just above the federal poverty line (100-150% FPL). If these children are forced into insurance exchanges where premiums must be paid, we fear that many will lose their health coverage. We therefore urge you to maintain Missouri’s CHIP program.

In closing, we urge you find ways to expand health coverage for those most in need. Now is no time for Missouri to take a step back when the rest of the nation is moving forward to expand access to health care. God Bless You!

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