Missouri Activist Files Medicaid Expansion Ballot Initiative

Published January 11, 2019

Having failed to achieve ballot access in 2018, political activist Gary Peterson of Raytown, Missouri says he is encouraged by voters’ approval of similar initiatives in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah during the 2018 midterms. Thirty-seven states have now passed Medicaid expansion.

“I really think that I’m going to have a good chance of getting it going this time,” Peterson told the Kansas City Star in late November 2018.

‘Expect Higher Costs’

Matthew Glans, a senior policy analyst with The Heartland Institute, which publishes Health Care News, says Missouri is lucky Peterson could not get the measure on the ballot in 2018.

“The states who passed expansion can expect higher health care costs for all residents in their state, because that’s what Medicaid expansion leads to,” Glans said. “Expansion was sold as a way to pay for the program, but all it really does is give people who are young and healthy a way to use a program that was never designed for them. Those people will be using resources at the expense of the elderly and sick, who were the original patients Medicaid was supposed to help.”

“And because more people have signed up for the program than anyone ever anticipated in states that have expanded Medicaid, the cost of Medicaid has gotten out of control,” Glans said. “That means states have to siphon money from other areas of the budget to help pay for it.”

Missouri Dodged That Bullet’

For his 2018 effort, Peterson expected help from the Missouri Democratic Party and its allies in collecting the required 100,000 signatures from each congressional district. The assistance never materialized. The ballot measure Peterson has filed to propose for 2020 would extend Medicaid to those with a household income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is currently $34,638 per year for a family of four. That would qualify an additional 293,000 families for Medicaid in the state.

“The GOP-led legislature in Missouri made the right decision in saying that Medicaid expansion in their state was too expensive,” Glans said. “The states that recently passed [Medicaid expansion] through ballot initiatives will be interesting to watch as they attempt to find ways of taxing their population or shuffling federal subsidies around in order to pay for a program that many of the newly enrolled no longer need because of the options recently made available under President Donald Trump, such as short-term health insurance plans and association health plans,” Glans said.

Rocco Cimino (rocco.j.cimino@gmail. com) writes from Washington, DC.