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Why Medicaid Expansion matters in Missouri

A letter from Nurture KC’s Executive Director …

As I was listening to our annual meeting presenters make the case for the drivers of maternal mortality from personal experience to professional expertise, my emotions vacillated between appreciation for their insight and knowledge to frustration that maternal mortality is still such a problem nationally and locally.  Since our annual meeting, I would add another reaction to this list:  hope.

The reason for my optimism is the opportunity to bring real change to the health of both moms and babies through Medicaid Expansion.  Amendment 2 is on the ballot in Missouri on August 4.  If approved, 230,000 Missourians would gain access to health care, becoming the 37th state to do so.  Many of these are workers who do not have employer-sponsored coverage and lack the income to purchase health insurance.  Currently, Missouri ranks among the lowest of states when it comes to income eligibility for Medicaid at a limit of $373 per month for a family of three.  Under expansion, the income threshold would rise to $30,000 a year for a family of three, making coverage available for many working families.

As an organization representing pregnant women and children, we are often asked why we support Medicaid expansion when pregnant women are already eligible for Medicaid under expanded income guidelines applicable during pregnancy.   The answer to that question is simple.  The health of our mothers is important throughout their lives, not just during pregnancy.  It is time to view health care through a lens of wellness rather than immediate care needs or sickness.  If mothers are healthy before and after pregnancy, their lives and their children’s are much likelier to be healthy.  The experience of other expansion states proves this point: 1) Expansion states have experienced a 50% greater decline in infant mortality than non-expansion states. This decline is greatest for Black babies.  2) Women without health insurance are 3 to 4 times more likely to die of pregnancy complications than those who are insured.

The coalition supporting Medicaid expansion is broad, diverse and extensive, bringing together rural and urban, business and nonprofit, young and old, underserved and establishment.  While there are many economic benefits to expansion such as additional jobs and securing federal tax dollars for Missouri, Nurture KC’s support stems from the unprecedented impact expansion will have on the health and lives of the families we serve.

Sincerely,

Tracy Russell