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KBIA’s Health & Wealth Desk covers the economy and health of rural and underserved communities in Missouri and beyond. The team produces a weekly radio segment, as well as in-depth features and regular blog posts. The reporting desk is funded by a grant from the University of Missouri, and the Missouri Foundation for Health.Contact the Health & Wealth desk.

Missouri Becomes 38th State to Pass Medicaid Expansion

After a night of what seemed like neck-in-neck results, Missourians have voted “Yes” on Amendment 2.

The final results were about 53 percent “yes” to 47 percent “no,” which makes Missouri the 38th state to pass Medicaid Expansion.

Dina van der Zalm, a Health Care Organizer for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center, said that after six years of fighting for expansion – the results are a huge relief. 

“It's a huge win for all Missouri and it's certainly a huge win for folks here in mid-Missouri that saw, even earlier this year, losing a hospital over in Cooper County,” van der Zalm said. “So, it's going to be a huge impact on not only the folks are getting insurance, but the economic benefits that we're about to see across the state, as well.”

The Rural Crisis Center estimates that as many as 230,000 Missourians could gain access to health insurance, and as many as 16,000 jobs could be added in the coming years – many of those in rural communities.

Erich Arvidson, a rural health advocate originally from the Bootheel, said tonight’s victory is personal for him – as he lost his parents, who fell into the Medicaid gap, last year.

“The impact is going to be to the benefit of our rural areas,” Arvidson said. “We're going to be able to see lower incidences of uncompensated care, and it's also going to allow people to have access to more distance care, which is going to be huge, especially considering when people have to drive so far to get that access.”

But both advocates recognize that their work is far from done. Van der Zalm said “a win tonight is not like suddenly we wake up and tomorrow everything is different and everyone knows how this works.”

Arvidson agreed that a significant education campaign is needed so people can fully take advantage of these new benefits.

“We're going to have to really focus on making sure people know what expanding Medicaid means and what that would look like,” Arvidson said. “It's not a switch that gets flipped, but it is definitely gonna open up some avenues for folks that can have access to care that they didn't traditionally have.”

This new coverage is expected to take effect in July 2021.

Rebecca Smith is a reporter and producer for the KBIA Health & Wealth desk. She was born and raised in Rolla, Missouri, and graduated with degrees in Journalism and Chemistry from Truman State University in May 2014. Rebecca comes to KBIA from St. Louis Public Radio, where she worked as the news intern and covered religion, neighborhood growth and the continued unrest in Ferguson, MO.