OTHER OPINION: Missouri, Kansas should expand Medicaid

By Kansas City Star

All eyes were glued to Washington, D.C., on June 28 as the nation waited to see whether the U.S. Supreme Court would uphold the constitutionality of the individual insurance mandate, a linchpin in President Barack Obama’s landmark health care reform act.
Fortunately, it did, but the judges threw in a curve, striking down a part of the law compelling states to increase Medicaid eligibility limits .
The long-awaited court decision roiled state capitols and it dropped two big decisions into the laps of state governments.
One has to do with health insurance exchanges, which are new organizations that will set up a more competitive and consumer-friendly market for purchasing health insurance.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is creating a federal exchange for use in states that don’t design their own.
The other big decision involves the Medicaid expansion.
Right now, it is nearly impossible for low-income workers in Missouri and Kansas to obtain health insurance if their employers don’t provide it.
The economic and moral reasons to expand Medicaid are compelling.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon intends to include the Medicaid expansion in his budget but will face opposition from the legislature. In Kansas, neither Gov. Sam Brownback nor legislative leaders have said how they intend to proceed.
Hospitals, citizens and states’ economies will suffer if leaders allow an antipathy toward all things “Obamacare” to deny the benefits of health security.
The offer for 100 percent federal financing of the cost of state Medicaid expansions runs out in 2017. Leaders in Missouri and Kansas must seize a unique opportunity to repair a broken system that currently leaves hundreds of thousands of people in both states without a way to be well. If they don’t, the problems created by uninsured patients will only get worse.