Kansas City medical professionals, business leaders join in support of Yes on 2 Medicaid expansion on cusp of Missouri primary election

On the eve of a long-awaited statewide vote on Missouri Medicaid expansion, medical and business leaders in Kansas City on Monday made a final push in support of the Amendment 2 ballot measure.

Speaking at a morning news conference at Truman Medical Center’s Hospital Hill campus, healthcare system president and CEO Charlie Shields, a former state lawmaker, implored Missouri voters to endorse a measure that Missouri lawmakers have refused for nearly a decade, costing the state billions in lost federal tax dollars.

“This is the right time to do the right thing for Missouri. We know from states that have gone before us, providing access to healthcare through an expanded Medicaid system will actually save the state money,” said Shields, who served a total of 20 years in the Missouri House and Senate, including a term as Senate president pro tem.

“So it’s not only the right thing to do for our citizens, it’s the right thing for our State budget. The advantage for Missouri is we can learn from the other states and create a Missouri system that is very efficient and serves our citizens well.”

Bill Gautreaux, chair of The Civic Council of Greater Kansas City, embraced the ballot initiative as a pro-jobs measure that will boost the state’s economy.

“Expansion of Medicaid in Missouri makes good financial sense and is good for economic growth. More than one billion of our tax dollars would come back to Missouri- money that is currently going to Washington because that money is funding Medicaid in other states,” he said. “Medicaid expansion will help create jobs at our local healthcare facilities while expanding our economic output and saving our state money.”

Truman physician Dr. Traci Johnson, an obstetrician-gynecologist, noted the importance of Medicaid expansion not only for boosting access to healthcare overall but especially its impact on increased breast and cervical cancer screenings— preventive services that save thousands of lives.

“Healthcare saves women's lives, helps with early detection of treatable conditions such as breast and cervical cancer, and in the case of prenatal care, has a big impact on children's health,” she said. “The state of Missouri is losing money due to a lack of federal dollars available to states that expanded Medicaid. We spend more and get less care.”

Qiana Thomason, president, and CEO of Health Forward Foundation, a nonprofit public charity based in Kansas City, noted the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exposed inequity in Missouri’s healthcare system.

“Black Missourians have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus, and studies have shown that this is largely due to a lack of access to healthcare. Amendment 2 will ensure 36,000 more Black Missourians will have access to much-needed healthcare,” said Thomason. “Medicaid expansion will help Black workers hit hardest by the coronavirus, many of whom work as frontline healthcare workers and those holding essential, low-wage jobs in childcare centers, grocery stores, and delivery drivers. Voting yes on Amendment 2 will provide healthcare to Missourians, including those at jobs that don’t come with healthcare and those who’ve lost their jobs and face economic uncertainty.”

A yes on 2 vote Tuesday will expand Medicaid to 230,000 hardworking Missourians by broadening eligibility to cover individuals who make less than $18,000 per year. It will bring billions of our taxpayer dollars back from Washington – money that’s set aside for Missouri but is currently being sent to other states. And it will protect thousands of healthcare jobs and help keep rural hospitals and urban healthcare clinics open.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis determined that Medicaid expansion will save Missouri more than $1 billion annually by 2026 and reduce many of the healthcare costs the state currently pays.

Missouri would join 37 other states that have expanded Medicaid, including neighboring Arkansas, where officials reported using savings from expansion to cut state income taxes and reduce payments previously allocated to the uninsured.

In 2018, voters in Utah, Idaho, and Nebraska chose to expand Medicaid, and on June 30, voters in Oklahoma passed a Medicaid expansion ballot measure of their own.