(Jefferson City) -- Advocates for expanding Missouri's Medicaid program have just launched a new campaign to put an initiative on the 2020 ballot.
The plan would allow about 200,000 Missourians who are low-wage workers to get Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, by raising the eligibility for the MO HealthNet program to 133% of the federal poverty level.
Jen Bersdale, executive director of the group Missouri Health Care For All, calls it a potential "win-win."
"It would bring more than a billion dollars, of Missouri tax dollars, back to our state from Washington every year," says Bersdale. "It would keep our hospitals, especially rural hospitals, open. And it would create thousands of jobs for Missourians."
Backers have to get 172,000 signatures by next spring, so Bersdale says people will start seeing petitions at grocery stores, farmers markets and other public events.
Opponents of the idea decry the cost of Medicaid expansion, despite the federal government initially picking up 90% of the cost to add people to MO HealthNet.
Bersdale adds that Missouri has what she calls "one of the stingiest" eligibility levels for single parents in the country. To qualify for MO HealthNet, a person with one child cannot make more than $381 a month.
"If you're working close to full time at minimum wage, you are likely at a job that doesn't provide health insurance," says Bersdale. "But you can't qualify for Medicaid, and you also can't qualify for a discount that would help other folks afford insurance through the Marketplace."
The Missouri Legislature has refused to take action on this issue for six years. In the meantime, four other states have used ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid in the face of lawmakers' opposition or inaction: Idaho, Maine, Nebraska and Utah.
Information about the campaign is online, at 'HealthcareforMissouri.org.'