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Nixon Announces Support For Medicaid Expansion

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon wants the state to expand its Medicaid program. His announcement Thursday marked his first public stance on the issue since being re-elected. 

The federal health law allows for an expansion of Medicaid, if states choose to opt in. 

The law itself has faced an uphill battle in the state - voters recently approved a measure limiting the state’s ability to move forward on key parts of it without legislative approval. 

But Nixon, a Democrat, told health leaders around Missouri yesterday that a Medicaid expansion would have a significant impact on the health and economy of the state. He said now that the elections are over and the Supreme Court has ruled on the law, the state must go beyond debating its merits.

“That choice is not whether to follow the law but how to implement it in a way that provides the greatest benefit for the people of Missouri,” Nixon said.

Speaking to a packed crowd of hospital and clinic leaders in Kansas City, Nixon said an expansion is the right thing to do, and it makes fiscal sense. The federal government would fully subsidize an expansion during the first three years, with the state kicking in about 10 percent of the cost after a few years.

“It’s the smart thing to do because if we take a pass on billions of health care dollars, dollars I should note which come out of Missourians’ paychecks when they pay their taxes, the money will go to other states. We’ll get bill. They’ll get benefit. That’s not smart and that’s not right,” Nixon said.

Recent studies estimate an expansion could provide health coverage to anywhere from 150,000 to 400,000 more residents in Missouri. 

A report out Wednesday by the Missouri Hospital Association projects Missouri would get about $8 billion dollars in federal funds during the first 6 years of an expansion. The state would spend an additional $300 million from its general revenue budget. 

Opponents of an expansion like Lieutenant Governor, Peter Kinder, were less than thrilled. Kinder questioned why Nixon hadn’t made his stance clear before the election. 

Nixon easily swept back into office earlier this month, but voters also approved a ballot measure limiting the state’s ability to move forward on key parts of the health law. Fellow GOP lawmakers, who will ultimately take up the issue when they convene in January, have also expressed concern about making government even bigger.