Jun 09, 2021 6:16 PM

American Cancer Society keeps pushing for Medicaid expansion in Missouri

Posted Jun 09, 2021 6:16 PM

By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

A spokesperson for the American Cancer Society says the group is disappointed the Missouri legislature failed to fund Medicaid expansion.

Emily Kalmer with the Cancer Action Network says the experience of the 36 states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is positive, because it leads to earlier diagnoses of cancer.

“We have the research to show that in the fight against cancer that has made a difference in leading to earlier diagnoses and access to treatment as well for those cancer patients who need it,” Kalmer tells St. Joseph Post.

The American Cancer Society, through its public policy arm the Cancer Action Network, backed the Medicaid expansion ballot issue approved by voters in August. Kalmer says the legislature should have followed the lead of the voters and funded Medicaid expansion.

She says the legislature’s refusal to fund expansion surprised her.

“We were disappointed,” Kalmer says. “Gov. Parson recommended the funding in the budget in his State of the State (address) and we had every indication to believe that the legislators would follow through with the will of the voters and implement the program that over 670,000 Missourians approved.”

In wake of the legislature’s refusal to fund expansion, a lawsuit has been filed against the General Assembly, attempting to force the body to fund the extension of the state-run health coverage to Missourians making up to 138% of the federal poverty rate, approximately 230,000 residents.

It is no secret that the Republican-controlled legislature doesn’t favor expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act even with the federal enticement of paying 90% of the cost. Expansion never gained traction in the legislature, leading advocates to go the initiative petition route. Amendment Two passed last August with 53% of the vote. Huge majorities in the state’s urban centers offset widespread opposition in the rural portions of Missouri.

Republican leaders criticize the ballot measure by pointing out proponents failed to designate a funding source to pay for expansion. They also point to court rulings that confirm the legislature’s right to control the state’s purse strings.

Kalmer dismisses the legislature’s justification for not funding expansion, stating that had all been hashed out during the campaign.

“Our organization supported Amendment Two last August and many of the arguments that legislators made during the legislative session were similar to arguments that were made prior to voters voting,” according to Kalmer. “So, we believe that over 670,000 Missourians who voted for it knew what they were voting for.”

Kalmer also insists Medicaid expansion makes financial sense. Gov. Parson budgeted $160 million to expand the Medicaid program in Missouri, called MO HealthNet. That expenditure would allow the state to draw down approximately $1 billion in federal funding.

The issue now heads to the courts.