No excuses: Expand Medicaid

welcome to missouriThe St. Louis Post-Dispatch correctly identifies problems with the Missouri Medicaid program (“Medicaid missteps,” May 10). But citing the system as “broken” as a reason to deny Echo Garrett the health insurance she deserves is a red herring.

For three years we have talked with legislators, advocating on behalf of the 180,000 low-income Missourians denied coverage because of their refusal to expand Medicaid. The most common response from the deniers has been, “We can’t expand coverage until we fix the broken system.” When we suggested that the legislator meet with his/her caucus and propose legislation to fix the problems, we were told, “I am not a policy person.” In other words, “It’s not my fault, not my responsibility.”

Our Legislature delayed funding for the computer system that processes applications for coverage with the result of a large backlog in applications. To be “more efficient,” our state social services department closed processing centers where clients could meet with counselors. The result has been that clients wait to get called back from counselors and sometimes give up entirely. Our Legislature has a responsibility, a responsibility to fix the system and at the same time provide insurance for Ms. Garrett and the others who are pushed aside while our legislators delay taking action.

[This post originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, on May 12, 2015. It is reprinted with the author’s permission.]