By Randy Kirby
Gov. Jay Nixon today addressed community leaders at Bothwell Regional Health Center to discuss his plan to bring federal tax dollars back to Missouri to strengthen Medicaid in the state.
The plan, endorsed by the Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce, would bring $5.7 billion to Misouri and provide health coverage to an addtional 300,000 Missourians over the next three years at no cost to the state.
“It will have a profound and positive impact, not only on our health, but also on the local economy here in Sedalia and in communities in every corner of our state,” Gov. Nixon said Thursday afternoon in front of a standing-room-only crowd assembled to hear him speak in the hospital’s auditorium.
“As Governor, I have both the opportunity and the obligation to keep Missouri’s economy moving forward, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Our economy continues to grow, our unemployment rate has been below the national average for 40 straight months. And in the least year, Missouri had over 40,000 net new jobs. That’s solid economic progress,” Nixon said.
Making sure that progress continues has everything to do with how we decide to move forward on health care, the Governor declared.
Last fall, a study by the University of Missouri found that by bringing these dollars back to Missouri to strengthen Medicaid would create 24,000 new jobs in Missouri in 2014.
“The new investments it will bring to Missouri are estimate to create 1,450 jobs in our region,” said Connie Smith, executive director of the Sedalia Area Chamber of Commerce, in her introduction of Gov. Nixon. “It will also help us maintain a strong health care system in our area, which is a primary consideration for our businesses that are relocating to our community. So simply put — strenghtening Medicaid is good for our economy and good for Sedalia.”
According to Nixon, “if you look at this as a business decision, it’s clear this proposal would be a big win for our economy. That’s why it’s been endorsed by a broad coalition of groups across our state,” he said, naming several Chamber of Commerce organizations in Missouri.
“This is not a political decision, it’s an economic one. And we shouldn’t let last year’s politics get in the way of next year’s economic growth,” he noted.
The Governor’s plan would reduce costs for families and businesses, and prevent unnecessary visits to the Emergency Department by the uninsured, resulting in an estimated savings for each family of $200 annually.
BRHC CEO John Dawes noted that “the expansion and reform of Medicaid is incredibly important for the future of the people of the state of Missouri, and to our economy. It is also important to BothwellRegional Health Center, our nine board members, our more than 850 employees, our 100 physicians that practice in our region and more than 180 volunteers who give of their time, and especially the 70,000 people that we serve,” he said.
Dawes went onto explain that without Medicaid expansion, Bothwell and many other rural hospitals may have to consider cuts in service.
“That’s something that none of us want, because the communities that we serve deserve the very best access and care right here at home.” he said. “The federal government will pay the full cost of the expansion of Medicaid for the first three years, beginning in 2014, and after that, the state’s portion increases gradually and caps out at 10 percent of the full cost. I don’t know about you, but I want my tax dollars to stay here in this state.”
Standing behind the Governor as he spoke were Smith, Dawes, Katy Trail Health Clinic Executive Director Chris Stewart, Julie Davenport, I-70 Community Hospital CEO (Sweet Springs); Cooper County Memorial Hospital CEO Alan Waldo (Boonville); and Sedalia Area Chamber of Commere President Doug Benitz. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.