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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.

Interfaith leaders gather for last-minute support of Medicaid expansion [video]

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Kellie Kotraba
/
KBIA News

  

With the Missouri legislative session ending on Friday and a Republican supermajority that still won't budge, the hope to expand Medicaid in Missouri is pretty much dead for FY 2014.

It's so dead that perhaps the only thing that could bring it back to life is, well, interfaith prayers for a miracle.

Monday night in the chapel area of the Catholic St. Thomas More Newman Center, the Rev. Brian Ford of Little Bonne Femme Baptist Church leads prayers. He’s asking for the congregation to say the name of people they know could benefit from Medicaid expansion in Missouri.

“Sarah,” one attendee said.

“Gretchen.”

“Mother-in-law Kristen.”

“Jim.”

“Mona.”

Six mid-Missouri religious leaders gathered Monday night to pray and support the efforts to expand Medicaid in the state. About 30 people attended. The Rev. Molly Housh Gordon of the Universalist Unitarian Church is another religious leader at the vigil. In response to Ford’s call for names, Housh Gordon mentioned Sarah, a woman who attends her church. 

“We are working with so many people who are uninsured,” Housh Gordon said. “It’s their voices that are also being lifted up.”

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Missouri has the option to expand the insurance program's eligibility to those who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That's about $32,500 for a family of four. The expansion could extend coverage to up to 300,000 more Missouri residents by 2020. The Affordable Care Act dictates the federal government to cover the entire cost of the expansion between 2014 to 2020.

Citing high future costs and a distrust in the federal government's ability to keep its end of the bargain, the state’s GOP lawmakers have strongly opposed the expansion. Between 2014 and 2020, the expansion could cost Missouri about $300 million.

A poll by the Missouri Foundation for Health shows most Missourians do support expanding Medicaid. Not to mention several chambers of commerce, numerous patient advocate groups, healthcare associations and social justice alliances who have publicly expressed their support. 

Housh Gordon said she and other clergy members from mid-Missouri decided to host the vigil after meeting with Sen. Kurt Schaefer (R-Columbia).  

“There’s something else going on in those halls of the Capitol because these masses of people are clearly not being heard,” Housh Gordon said. “They’ve been blocked at every step. We’re frustrated. We’re going to keep on calling for what is right.”

After the service, Newman Center's Fr. Thomas Saucier invited attendees to sign cards stating their support for Medicaid expansion. Saucier noted if not for this year, the signatures can be used to show support for Medicaid expansion in FY 2015. 

Joan Wilcox of Hallsville signed her name. She proudly did not check the box that would prevent the publication of her support. 

“Yes, I want my name on every support of this everywhere,” Wilcox said. “We need this Medicaid expansion desperately.”

It's unclear what would happen to Medicaid in Missouri after next year. According to Ryan Barker, a policy analyst at the Missouri Foundation for Health, both the Missouri House and Senate are planning to set up interim committees to study Medicaid reform.  

Harum Helmy started as KBIA's Health and Wealth reporter in January 2013. She has previously worked at the station as a news assistant, helping assign and edit stories by student reporters. Harum grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia and graduated from MU with degrees in journalism and anthropology in 2011. She's trying to finish up an MA in journalism.
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