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Nixon Outlines New Health Care Proposal

Bernard Pollack
Wikimedia Commons

Governor Jay Nixon outlined a new twist on Monday to his proposal to expand Medicaid in Missouri. The proposal would help small business owners pay for their employees’ health insurance and avoid penalties under the Affordable Care Act.

Nixon’s new proposal would cover 60 percent of health insurance costs for employees of businesses that employ fewer than 150 people.

Speaking at the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, Nixon said it would apply to employees who earn 138 percent of the federal poverty level or less.

“By using these federal dollars, dollars we’ve already sent to Washington to pick up some of these businesses’ health care costs, we’ll make it easier for them to cover their workers, avoid Obamacare penalties, and most importantly grow their businesses,” Nixon said.

Nixon dubbed the program “Missouri Health Works” and said it rewards work, unlike the current system. Nixon said it would be available to workers who earn about $13 per hour and work 40 hours per week. Those workers cannot afford insurance on their own, and Nixon said the easiest way for them to obtain insurance is to quit their job.

“This small business relief is only possible if Missouri’s general assembly takes action on Medicaid reform,” Nixon said. “I don’t expect the general assembly to support Obamacare. But I do expect them to listen to small businesses and evaluate the situation on the merits rather than its politics and come up with a solution that is right for the Show Me State.”

Currently, states can expand their Medicaid programs and the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the tab through 2016, but the Republican-led legislature has shown little desire to do so.

House speaker Tim Jones, a Republican who also spoke in Cape Girardeau on Monday, questioned the governor’s timing.

“He’s proposed it here in the last three weeks of session after a discussion that’s been going on for nearly two years,” Jones said. “The House has definitely advanced the ball on this issue but we have always said we don’t want to put a billion dollars into a broken Medicaid system.”

Jones called the federal Medicaid dollars a “magical Medicaid fund” that is “either printed or borrowed.”

“We do not want to get on the hook of something we’re going to be on the hook for down the line that’s going go cause us to look at harming our public education budgets, our transportation budgets and so and on so forth,” Jones said.