Missouri Gov.: Implementing Obamacare Is ‘The Smart Thing And The Right Thing’

Gov. Jay Nixon (D-MO)

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) announced today that his state will participate in the optional expansion of the Medicaid program under Obamacare, one of the crucial methods that the health care reform law uses to extend coverage to previously uninsured Americans. An estimated 33,000 Missouri residents will be able to access health insurance thanks to Nixon’s decision to expand Medicaid.

“As Chief Executive for the state, I take my financial responsibilities very seriously,” Nixon said in the statement. “I trust that as others scrutinize the numbers, as I have, they will come to the same conclusion: that we can do the smart thing and the right thing for the people of Missouri.”

Republican governors across the country have been digging in their heels against implementing Obamacare in their states, claiming that covering more of their low-income residents under Medicaid would impose too much of a strain on their budgets — despite significant evidence to the contrary. But a statement from Nixon’s office noted that expanding Medicaid represents a “fiscally responsible move” for his state because the federal government will contribute 100 percent of the costs of expansion for the first three years, and 90 percent or more in the years after that. And on top of that, a report from earlier this week found that the additional funding from the federal government will help spur the local economy by creating 24,000 new jobs in the state in 2014 alone.

Nixon’s decision will help move his state toward implementing the Affordable Care Act after the state’s Republican-controlled legislature has repeatedly attempted to block Obamacare’s implementation altogether. In September, Missouri lawmakers voted to give employers the right to deny their employees coverage for contraceptive services — a method of circumventing Obamacare’s contraception mandate, which requires employer-based insurance plans to cover birth control without a co-pay. And on November 6, Missouri voters passed a meaningless anti-Obamacare ballot initiative to prevent their governor from moving forward with a state-based health exchange, another one of the health law’s tactics for lowering the uninsurance rate. Instead of preventing Obamacare’s implementation in Missouri, that vote actually left Nixon with no choice but to cede to the federal government, which will now step in and set up a health exchange for the state.

The news that Missouri will move forward with expanding Medicaid is especially good news for the state’s hospitals, which stood to lose about $400 million in funding without the Medicaid expansion. Some estimates projected that, if Missouri decided against expanding Medicaid, as many as 40 to 50 percent of rural hospitals in the state could have been forced to close.