By Eric Bohl
On Tuesday, August 4, Missourians will be faced with yet another poorly conceived measure placed on the ballot by initiative petition. Amendment 2 would expand the state’s Medicaid rolls and put taxpayers on the hook for $2 billion of new healthcare spending. Missourians should vote no on Amendment 2.
This proposed amendment would enshrine Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in the state constitution. Rather than enacting a statute that could be updated and improved as times change, the slightest revision to this measure would require a constitutional amendment. Amendment 2 would prohibit Missouri from putting work requirements on recipients or otherwise ensuring people do not take advantage of the program.
Proponents point to the large chunk of expenses that would be covered by the federal government. They say this would make it a good deal for Missouri. This ignores the fact that Missouri’s state budget would still have to pick up around $200 million of the costs each year.
It also ignores that the federal government is not an independent entity with magic, consequence-free money. To borrow a phrase, we the people are the federal government. Our taxes pay for its programs; we shoulder its debt. The same people would be paying for the state portion our of our left pocket and the federal portion out of our right.
August 2020 is a particularly bad time to be adding to our budgetary expenses. Due to the COVID-19 shutdown, tax revenues have plummeted. Governor Parson and state legislators have already been warning of tough choices ahead to balance our budget. We don’t need to be making that job even harder in the middle of a crisis.
Even without Amendment 2’s expansion, Medicaid already takes up about one third of our state budget. We should be looking for ways to improve the cost and availability of care without saddling taxpayers with even more obligations.
It is true that rural Missourians have been increasingly struggling to access affordable healthcare in their areas. Experts have identified other ways to address these issues without massively expanding government.
A task force appointed last year by Governor Mike Parson reviewed options available to states under a waiver from the Affordable Care Act. The task force recommended ways to “improve access to affordable insurance options and access to health care services within the state while reducing the state’s uninsured rates, with a particular emphasis on increasing access to health care in rural areas of the state.”
Missouri can’t afford to take on this costly Obamacare program. As Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst said in a recent statement, “we need to find solutions that will make healthcare more accessible and affordable, not just expand government further.”
When you go to the polls on Tuesday, vote no on Amendment 2.
Eric Bohl, of Columbia, Missouri, is Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.