Salus populi suprema lex esto
The welfare of the People Shall be the Supreme Law
As our legislature adjourns for the year, one cannot help but wonder if our state motto is as outdated as the Latin it is written in.
Missouri’s legislature, the Senate in particular, never seriously contemplated expanding Medicaid eligibility for 260,000 needy Missourians.
Partisan gridlock ensnared this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of the federal poverty level at no additional cost to the state for the first three years. The expansion promised billions in federal investment, tens of thousands of new jobs, and hundreds of thousands of newly insured Missourians.
On the eve of the adjournment of the 2013 legislative session, volunteers assembled 1500 candles on the steps of the Capitol to remind our elected officials of the human cost of inaction. Studies suggest that expanding Medicaid would save 15,000 lives in the first decade. Now, nearly five lives a day will end prematurely, simply due to lack of access to health care.
Other avoidable calamities will soon pile up. Liberty hospital in Clay County, has already laid off 129 employees due to anticipated cuts in federal funding, cuts that were designed to be made up with an expanded Medicaid clientele. “When Missouri chose not to do that (Medicaid expansion), it left a pretty big hole there” hospital spokesperson Julie Simpson said.
Our current healthcare system which fails to provide access to affordable health care to one in every seven Missourians cannot continue on indefinitely. The costs of providing uncompensated care to the uninsured are simply too high for our hospitals, businesses and workers to continue to bear. The Missouri Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Majority, AFL-CIO, Missouri Hospital Association and Primary Care Association all recognize this. Eventually our legislature will too. The question remains how much unnecessary damage will be done before they do.
Perhaps a Latin lesson would help.