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Attempts to pit Medicaid expansion against education only work if you ignore facts

If facts mattered, Medicaid expansion would be a slam dunk.

Some Missouri legislators continue to ignore the facts, choosing instead to parrot recycled rhetoric that is not grounded in reality.

This past week saw another attempt to pit Medicaid expansion against education by Representative Caleb Rowden (R-44):

"...but we certainly cannot discount the fact that we are spending tens and hundreds of millions of dollars to maintain our current system to the detriment of K through 12 education and at the detriment of higher education."

Here's what the facts say:

"...The federal government will pick up many costs the state is currently paying, expanding Medicaid would actually save the state money – more than $81 million initially, and more than $100 million annually in later years.” -- Missouri Office of Administration, Division of Budget and Planning

The math is simple and clear. Missouri must act quickly if we are to take full advantage of the resources being offered to make our system more efficient and effective for consumers. The eventual $100+ million annual savings could be used to fund the K-12 education formula or restore some services cut during the Great Recession. As the 2015 legislative session begins, Medicaid expansion should be a top budgeting and policy priority." -- The Missouri Budget Project

Full audio of Rowden's speech here:

It's as if some Missouri legislators are blatantly ignoring the state savings and positive fiscal impact brought on by Medicaid expansion in states like Kentucky

"... the report found that the expense of covering the new enrollees would be more than offset by the positive economic effects of expanding the program. They include new Medicaid revenue to health care providers — totaling more than $1 billion in 2014 alone, according to the report — and the resulting creation of jobs in health care and other professions.”

Rowden was wrong. But he wasn't the only one making inaccurate statements about Medicaid this week. Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (R-158) attempted to pit the current Medicaid population against those currently in the coverage gap.

“If we pass this amendment, we are going to cut our current Medicaid appropriation to a level that won’t sustain our current Medicaid caseload. And, providers aren’t going to get paid and services aren’t going to get rendered. So I just encourage everyone to keep that in mind. That what the lady [Representative Judy Morgan] is asking us to do, is cut the Medicaid appropriation without any hint of a bill ever being passed.”-- Fitzpatrick

This is simply preposterous. Morgan made that clear:

Fitzpatrick: "'re asking us to cut Medicaid?"

Morgan: "No, gentleman, I'm not asking you to cut Medicaid at all."

Missourians need their legislators to stand up and do the right thing. Representative Deb Lavender (D-90) pointed out later in debate that inaction on Medicaid expansion harms Missourians. And attempts to pit Medicaid expansion against education, similar to pitting the current Medicaid population against those in the coverage gap, is a scenario that only works if you ignore the facts.

This absurdity must end. We need to have a real debate on Medicaid expansion and close the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid this session.