Missouri lawmakers rejected a bill proposal calling for Medicaid eligibility expansion made available by the Affordable Care Act.
State senators voted 25-9 against Medicaid expansion on Tuesday after a two hour debate. The vote went directly along party lines, with the Republicans overwhelming the Democratic minority.
The bill proposal is the third time in the three years since the Affordable Care Act was passed in which state lawmakers engaged in an extended debate over Medicaid expansion. Democratic Senator Paul LeVota, who proposed the bill, said he wants to continue to fight for Medicaid expansion in the face of the greater Republican opposition.
“I think that we have to keep pressing the issue,” LeVota said. “I think we have to try to explain to more people in Missouri why this is a good idea, and we have to keep those elected representatives who aren’t doing the right thing by Missourians accountable.”
The proposed expansion would provide medical coverage to able-bodied Missouri residents with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or a yearly income of $32,913 for a four-person family. Approximately 300,000 Missouri residents would be eligible for Medicaid if the expansion were approved.
Republican Senator Will Kraus said the two-hour debate ultimately proved futile, and he added he is not optimistic for the future of Medicaid expansion.
“I do not know if (the expansion proposal) will ever move forward,” Kraus said. “I know that there are some Republicans that are working on a compromise. But straight up expansion, the way it was proposed, the answer is no.”
Matthew Patterson, the executive director of Missouri Pro Vote, a pro-Medicaid expansion activist organization, said he feels the debate serves as a healthy step forward in the fight to get Medicaid expansion passed.
“I think it will open up more of a dialogue between our party leaders on both sides of the aisle,” Patterson said. “But I think that this needs to happen, and the discussion is now, ‘If you don’t agree with what we’re trying to do, then what can we work together on?’”
A University of Missouri study found Medicaid expansion could potentially create 24,000 additional healthcare jobs in Missouri.
Correction: A previous Web version of this story incorrectly stated that a University of Missouri study found Medicaid expansion could create 240,000 additional healthcare jobs in Missouri. The actual number is 24,000.