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In-depth: Missouri Medicaid expansion has providers' attention

Swope Health voices support for expanding coverage
Posted at 10:19 AM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 11:59:47-04

KANSAS CITY, MO. — Healthcare providers in the Kansas City area are closely watching recent developments in the fight to expand Medicaid coverage in Missouri.

41 Action News spoke to Jeron Ravin, the president and CEO of Swope Health, one of the biggest providers to underinsured and uninsured patients in the city, and he said expanding Medicaid would be a positive for his clinics.

"It's fantastic for Swope. We would be able to serve far more people who are now eligible, I think, over 200,000 people in the state of Missouri would be eligible, the vast majority in St. Louis and Kansas City, that have Medicaid, and so there's also an economic cost to that because people who are not engaged in health care end up missing work more often due to sickness and illness. They are attending to a number of other issues so there's a productivity issue to that as well but from an operations perspective, we would benefit not only by being able to serve more patients but it's less costly to our county and city governments who give us funding for uninsured patients," he said.

Thus far, 36 states have implemented expanded Medicaid coverage.

Last August, Missouri voters passed a ballot measure to amend the state's constitution and expand Medicaid as well, but last month, the state General Assembly declined to provide funding in the state budget. A week later, three people filed a lawsuit against Missouri to push expansion forward.

Under the provisions of Missouri's potential expansion, more than 200,000 people could become eligible.

Ravin said they have fielded a lot of questions and concerns from their patients.

"Our patients are just concerned about having to constantly prioritize health care over other basic necessities, particularly those who are coming from rural Kansas and rural Missouri to see Swope, that they would have been able to save their county hospital or rural hospital if Medicaid was expanded, wouldn't have to drive in to see us and we welcome them. We're glad they're here, but we want them to get access to health care where it's most convenient for them and for some of these patients, their concern is that that's not going to happen based on expanding Medicaid," he said.

Ravin expressed optimism about the pending litigation surrounding expansion but admitted it's been a challenge for Swope's patients.

"It's disheartening. All the data shows and just about every state that's expanding Medicaid, they get better productivity from those who are insured, you have less ER utilization, there's a less than cost to the healthcare system, and you have healthier citizens, so it's hard to argue against it, but we are awaiting the trial that's coming up, and we will wait and see how that goes but we're optimistic that the will of people's voice will be heard through the end of this trial," he said.