A new poll found that the majority of Missourians favor Medicaid expansion, a proposal Republicans in the state House of Representatives recently rejected.
After hearing an equal set of pros and cons of Medicaid expansion, 56 percent of Missourians said they were in favor of expansion, while 35 percent said they were opposed. Before hearing the arguments of both sides, a plurality of Missourians — 47 percent — said they were in favor of the expansion, while 37 percent were opposed.
The poll results, commissioned by the Missouri Hospital Association, have been sent to Republican legislative caucuses in the state House as they consider other Medicaid legislation.
“The Republicans have a veto-proof majority in the legislature right now, so understanding where the conservatives and moderates were on the issue was important to us,” MHA spokesman Dave Dillon said.
MHA chose Virginia-based polling firm American Viewpoint to conduct the polling because American Viewpoint is a popular firm among Republican candidates, Dillon said. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., has used the firm in past elections.
Pollsters Randall Gutermuth and David Barklage encouraged Republican legislators to consider the Medicaid reform efforts so as not to be blamed by Gov. Jay Nixon. Nixon’s approval ratings are currently higher than those of the legislature, the poll found.
“Rather than allowing Governor Nixon to place all the blame for rising health care costs on a GOP legislature, effectively negating the perceptual problems with Obamacare, the GOP legislature should take ownership of real reforms to Medicaid that will not only reduce the number of the uninsured, but improve the quality of life for all Missourians,” Gutermuth and Barklage wrote in a memo to the caucuses.
Dillon said other polls had found that most Missourians favored the expansion, so MHA was not surprised to find that conservative and moderate voters also approved. The poll also found that 24 percent of registered voters had been uninsured at some point in the last five years.
“What I think we were surprised at, and what I think is extremely valuable is to realize, is that there is a degree of recognition that the uninsured are, in essence, our neighbors, and that they’re not some group of disadvantaged people living in a far away place,” Dillon said.
After the Democrat-backed Medicaid expansion bill failed, Dillon said MHA has focused on working with the Republican majority in the legislature. Recently, the organization has also been researching what the cost of not expanding Medicaid will be for hospitals. Previously, MHA conducted research with MU that suggests the expansion would add 24,000 jobs in Missouri.
In place of the expansion bill, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, introduced a “market-based Medicaid” bill he said would transform the program. Dillon said the MHA was open to Barnes’ bill as the legislature continues to consider it.
“There are many aspects of (Barnes’ bill) that are entirely workable," Dillon said. "The important thing is to get individuals into some sort of health insurance system. We think that fact that the conversation is still being had is very positive and we hope that this is creating a path for it to end up on the governor’s desk."