Over the last few months, we have learned that 127,000 people, more than 90,000 of them being children, have been dropped from Missouri’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet. Not only is that a big number, it is also far above any other state in the country. In fact, it’s more than seven-times higher than the national average for enrollment decreases. But it can be easy to dismiss the impact of such a tectonic shift in access to coverage when you only look at the numbers.
These 90,000 children are our family, our daughter’s classmate, our co-worker’s son, our neighbors down the block. These are 90,000 children who won’t have access to the necessary physical exam to start the school year, medications when they catch the flu, or lifesaving treatments to manage chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes.
These 90,000 children are Missouri’s future. But to live up to their potential, our children need access to care. And that goes beyond health care. They need nutritious food, so they have the fuel they need to attend school prepared to learn. They need a safe place to call home. When their basic needs are taken care of, they are better prepared to grow and thrive. And ultimately, they are more likely to become productive, healthy, independent adults.
As our lawmakers and state leaders seek solutions—be it funding or access—they must ask themselves: when we limit someone’s potential, what is the long-term impact on our communities as a whole?
It’s not just our kids who don’t have access to what they need to thrive. Right now, the federal government is considering changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) that would result in 3 million Americans losing much-needed food assistance. We know what results when kids go hungry, but the same is true for adults. They aren’t able to be productive in their jobs or contribute fully to their communities.
Stories of Missourians who are struggling are all too common. Too many of our neighbors have basic needs that just aren’t being met. But there is a solution.
Safety-net programs ensure all Missourians can lead healthy lives. They provide food, shelter, health care, and economic support. But these programs can only help if they’re properly supported and focused on what people really need. And to know what people really need, we all need to listen. We need to listen to what Missouri families are telling us about how they struggle to get by, find and keep work, and give their kids the best chance to succeed.
We need to listen to the dedicated professionals and incredible volunteers who work hard to fill gaps. The leaders from these community organizations will tell you themselves – they aren’t equipped to provide all the support necessary to help Missourians in need. That’s why federal and state support programs are so critical.
It bears repeating: there is a solution. And there is much agreement. According to our research, more than nine in 10 Missourians believe the safety net is important. Most Missouri voters do not want to see funding cuts to safety net programs. Whether or not we participate in any of these programs ourselves, we all see the net benefit of taking care of our fellow Missourians. This is true both from a financial and moral perspective.
As citizens, we should remind policymakers that the decisions they are making affect Missouri families. As they start to plan for the upcoming legislative session, they’ll undoubtedly be aware of the precipitous drop in our Medicaid rolls. It’s not because the economy is doing better. The drop has occurred because we, as a state, are not prioritizing the health of our people who rely on a system that has yet to be strengthened and improved. These stats are more than numbers on a page. They represent real Missourians. Medicaid, our safety net as a whole, along with the people who depend on it, are worth protecting.
This piece is part of series related to our The Net Benefit education campaign. We created #TheNetBenefit because we know that when Missourians’ basic needs are not met, their health is negatively impacted. We wanted to inform Missourians about how taking care of our residents who most need help leads to stronger communities and a stronger state.
Other posts by Bob Hughes related to The Net Benefit: