Medicaid expansion continues to be debated in Jefferson City.

Another new study documents the affect Medicaid expansion would have on Texas County.

The report, “The Economic Impact of Medicaid Expansion” undertaken by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, gives specific data on Texas County, where healthcare sector employee composes about 8.2 percent of the labor force. Statewide, the average ratio to healthcare jobs to total employee is 7.6 percent. In Texas County, healthcare jobs pay 37.8 percent more than the average county wages. Texas County Memorial Hospital and its clinics are one of the biggest employers in the county. Its financial fortunes have slid amid shifts in healthcare payments. Drafting of the federal healthcare law included provisions that states would implement their own plans, too, that would offset cuts coming from the federal government. That did not occur in Missouri, and residents must buy their insurance through federal plans. Many are eligible for tax credits that reduce the cost of coverage. Because of a lack of action in Jefferson City, rural hospitals are threatened financially.

According to the report, raising Medicaid eligibility for adults to up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level would add 1,627 more county residents into the program in fiscal year 2015. Provider payments in Texas County would jump by $13 million in 2022.

The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center analyzed the economic impact of expanding Medicaid in terms of jobs gains, increases in wages paid to Missouri workers, rise of gross state product and changes to state general revenue. According to the report, 460 new jobs would be created in south-central Missouri, which includes Wright, Douglas, Ozark, Texas, Howell, Shannon and Oregon counties from 2015-2022. Wages gained in the region total $136.9 million while the gross state product would jump $213.5 million.

The report’s release comes as Missouri debates the merits of expanding Medicaid eligibility. Missouri could get additional federal money under the new federal healthcare law if it expands Medicaid to adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $32,500 for a family of four.

That aligns with the terms of President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, which means the federal government will pick up the tab for the first few years. In future years, states must gradually start picking up 10 percent of the expansion costs. The department’s analysis — which it says is conservative — contends the influx of federal dollars will spur economic growth.

Those arguments are unlikely to persuade Republicans who oppose the expansion. Republicans rejected an expansion in 2013 after a University of Missouri study projected job gains.

Republicans have said the state couldn’t afford expansion if the federal government reneged on its funding promises. They have also said the current system needs to be improved before more people are added.

Missouri’s Medicaid program currently covers custodial parents earning up to 19 percent of the poverty level, or about $4,475 annually, and doesn’t cover adults without children in their homes.

Read the report online at: 

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