Strengthening Medicaid is Vital to Missouri’s Coronavirus Response

As Missourians are laid off and lose access to employer-sponsored health insurance, Missouri risks a sharp increase in the uninsured rate as low-income adults are left without access to affordable coverage in the midst of a pandemic. A new Missouri Budget Project report outlines ways that our state can strengthen Medicaid and better ensure that all Missourians have access to the health care they need during this health and economic crisis.

“Voters will decide whether to expand Medicaid coverage at the ballot box,” said Lindsey Baker, Research Director at the Missouri Budget Project. “In the meantime, there are a number of actions our state can take to make sure Missourians can access the care they need quickly and efficiently without extra financial and administrative barriers.”

First and foremost, it’s critical that Missouri extend interim policies it put in place in response to COVID-19 that are scheduled to expire on June 15th. Coverage protections, telehealth, and other temporary coverage changes will continue to be important as the pandemic continues.

“Now more than ever, it is critical that Missourians can access the health care they need without worrying whether they can afford it,” said Lindsey Baker, Research Director for the Missouri Budget Project. “Fortunately, this can be accomplished through Medicaid, which is designed to react quickly and efficiently to emergencies and the increased need for health coverage that comes with them.”

Over one in nine frontline workers don’t have health insurance. Moreover, it’s estimated that of the over 475,000 Missourians who lose access to employer-sponsored insurance during the pandemic, more than one in three will become uninsured.

Missouri can rapidly expand access to health care by waiving waiting periods for lawfully residing immigrant children and pregnant women and expanding Medicaid eligibility for Missourians who test positive for COVID-19. Missouri Budget Project’s report details several other ways that our state can ensure timely access to care, including streamlined application and renewal procedures and the elimination of premiums for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Missouri’s CHIP premiums are among the highest in the nation. Eliminating those premiums would help families make ends meet and improve efficiency, and because most of the savings created by premiums flow to the federal government, their elimination would come at minimal cost to the state.

“Strengthening Medicaid is the fastest and most sensible way to provide comprehensive coverage to Missourians who need it,” said Baker.