Medicaid Expansion: Connecting Health Care and Food Security

Missouri voters have the opportunity to expand Medicaid during the August 4 primary election. The ballot measure would help 230,000 people access health care in addition to reducing food insecurity, supporting healthy families, and strengthening local communities. Operation Food Search believes Medicaid expansion can advance our vision of ensuring all children and families have the nutrition, food, and skills they need for a healthy life.

Read more about the benefits below and join us in supporting expansion!

Medicaid expansion reduces food insecurity.

Our member agencies and community food partners help us distribute $3 million of food and essential supplies to more than 200,000 families each month. These families also likely have a hard time affording health care. Nationwide, 30% of food recipients are estimated to be uninsured, 55% have unpaid medical bills, and 66% have had to choose between purchasing food or their medications.

People without health insurance face high costs for medical services that have to be paid out-of-pocket and often prior to receiving care. Many without insurance struggle to pay medical bills and worry about affording other basic needs like food, housing, and transportation. In fact, out-of-pocket medical costs increase the likelihood that families will experience food insecurity.

Medicaid expansion would help Missourians who don’t have insurance through their employer and those who can’t afford private insurance. Expansion reduces out-of-pocket health care costs and the likelihood of incurring medical debt. As a result, more families will have income available for food and nutrition.

People who’ve gained coverage through Medicaid expansion have reported an easier time paying for groceries. Moreover, families in Medicaid expansion states are significantly less likely to be food insecure than those living in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid.

Medicaid expansion improves the health of moms and babies.

Our Fresh Rx: Nourishing Healthy Starts program delivers fresh, local food to pregnant women and their families each week. In addition, participants receive nutrition counseling and comprehensive case management services with connections to public benefits and community resources. Fresh Rx goes beyond traditional health care and addresses other non-medical drivers of health to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes.

Missouri provides Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, but unfortunately, the insurance ends for most new mothers 60 days after delivery. Postpartum is a critical time that women need access to health care for prevention, chronic conditions, and mental health. In Missouri, the majority of maternal deaths occur after delivery (between 43 days and 1 year postpartum).

Consistent insurance coverage for women can also improve the health of infants and reduce racial disparities. Infant mortality rates in Medicaid expansion states declined by 50% more than in non-expansion states between 2010 and 2016. Other states that have expanded Medicaid also report improvements in low birth weight, preterm births, and infant mortality rates among African Americans.

Medicaid expansion would strengthen our communities.

Our team at Operation Food Search has seen a drastic increase in the need for food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent estimates show that food insecurity has more than doubled in Missouri. Much of the need can be attributed to the economic crisis caused by business closures and resulting job loss. Widespread unemployment has also caused 100,000 Missourians to lose health insurance during the pandemic.

Numerous factors will be needed for a complete economic recovery. Evidence from other states suggests that Medicaid expansion could also support communities during this time. Researchers project that expansion will boost the state’s economyby creating 16,000 new jobs each year and increasing personal income by $1 billion statewide. Economic output is also expected to increase by $2.5 billion.

Expansion’s effects will extend well-beyond the people who receive new Medicaid coverage. More families will have jobs and access to employer-sponsored health insurance. Health care providers, especially rural hospitals, will become more financially secure, and the state will see increased economic activity.

More about Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid helps low-income children, parents, pregnant women, older adults, and people with disabilities access health care. The program has different eligibility criteria for each population. Currently, for a family of four, Missouri parents must earn less than $5,550 per year or $463 per month to qualify. Adults who do not have children are not eligible.

The ballot measure would amend the state’s constitution to allow adults (ages 19 to 64) who earn up to 138% of federal poverty level (FPL) to qualify for Medicaid. This means that a family of four with annual income up to $36,000 would be eligible, and an individual who earns up to $18,000 per year could qualify.

Medicaid expansion has been adopted by 38 other states, including 5 that also passed by a ballot measure. Oklahoma voters just passed expansion a few weeks ago. Beyond expanding eligibility, Missouri’s ballot measure would prohibit the state from implementing additional eligibility and enrollment barriers as well as require the state to maximize federal funding that is available.

Medicaid is administered in partnership by states and the federal government. The federal government covers 90% of the costs for Medicaid expansion which exceeds its typical funding level of 65% for Missourians currently enrolled in the program. States must meet federal Medicaid requirements in order to receive the full funding contribution.

Visit Makes Sense MO for more information about expansion.

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