Herald-Whig

Missouri Medicaid expansion would benefit rural economy

Posted: Jul. 30, 2020 6:20 pm

To The Herald-Whig:

On Tuesday, Aug. 4, Missourians will cast their ballots to determine whether the state should expand Medicaid. This measure is important to rural Missourians and the hospitals that provide them care.

Many rural Missourians fall through the cracks of the health insurance system. That may be because they don't receive health benefits through their job, make too little to qualify for or afford insurance in the marketplace, or are not old enough to be eligible for Medicare. We know this to be true with many of our loyal patients at Scotland County Hospital and Clinics. Custodial parents can earn no more than $4,479/year for a family of three to be eligible. Under expansion, that changes to $28,676, giving more working poor access to care. Currently, Missouri has the lowest eligibility levels for Medicaid in the country. Medicaid expansion promotes coverage to many of these hard-working rural Missourians. A healthier workforce is a more productive workforce, and that would benefit Missouri employers.

Our rural hospitals would benefit as well. Many rural hospitals operate at a loss, and 10 Missouri rural hospitals have closed since 2014. Our rural communities need access to hospital care and the clinic system supported by rural hospitals. Medicaid expansion would reduce our cost of uncompensated care for the uninsured, while allowing these individuals to receive the care they need to improve their health. It's a win-win for rural Missourians and for us.

Missouri is one of only 13 states that have not expanded Medicaid. Taxpayers are already paying for expansion; Missouri is just not getting the benefits. We can change that.

At the same time, we can strengthen our rural economy. Hospitals and health care professionals are the basis for a strong economic foundation for the communities they serve, and this is vividly clear with Scotland County Hospital, being the only hospital in four counties of Northeast Missouri.

I am supporting Medicaid expansion and encourage you to join me. It provides an economic boost, while keeping Missourians healthy and in the workforce. A healthy population is working and productive and contributing to society.

On Aug. 4, Missourians will have an opportunity to improve the health of their neighbors, their local hospital and their community. That's the benefit of a "yes" vote on Amendment 2.

Randy Tobler

MD, FACOG, CPE, CEO

Scotland County Hospital and Clinics

Memphis, Mo.