State leaders make push to expand Medicaid in Missouri

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - With just two weeks left to sign up for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act, state leaders worry hundreds of thousands of people in Missouri will be left without coverage.

"I think that it's a no brainer,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver. He is one of many state leaders pushing for Medicaid expansion in Missouri.

Both Cleaver and Gov. Jay Nixon spoke with people here in the metro Monday night about why nearly 300,000 Missourians could be without health insurance.

"Without the expansion of Medicaid is going to find themselves in this little twilight zone,” Cleaver said.

Missouri is one of 24 states that chose not to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which places millions of people in a coverage gap.

"When it's easier in a state to get health care by losing a job than by taking one, that's a broken system," Nixon said.

That gap is full of uninsured people like Kathleen Christian of Lawrence, Kan. She makes too much money to qualify for the state-run Medicaid program. But she doesn’t make enough to get tax credits from the Affordable Care Act.

"If I do develop a catastrophic illness than I'll die. I'll probably die,” Christian said.

In Missouri, Medicaid expansion is still up for debate, but in Kansas, it’s completely off the table. Many state leaders say the expansion is too costly.

In a written statement, Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder said, "Rather than spending more money, we should work in Kansas and Missouri on bipartisan, patient-centered reform measures that would bring the skyrocketing costs of health care down."

Meanwhile, advocates for Medicaid expansion fear time is running out. "The Missouri general assembly is already in the process of generating its budget and if it doesn't get through right now it's not going to get through,” Cleaver said.

In the coming weeks, state leaders hope Medicaid expansion will be passed in the budget in Missouri.

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