Would Jesus Expand Medicaid In Missouri? I’ll Let Him Tell You (UPDATED)

“Missouri’s low income and vulnerable citizens will have access to excellent health care in order to maximize their quality of life and independence.”

—The “vision” statement of Missouri’s Medicaid program, MO HealthNet Division

I swear the following story is in your Bible:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But the expert in the law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said, “A man was going down from Jefferson City to Joplin, when he found out his job was being outsourced to China. All in one moment he lost his income and along with it his health insurance, which he needed because his wife had a serious health condition. A Religious Right preacher happened to be going down the same road on his way to vote for a Republican, and when he saw the uninsured man on the side of the road in much distress, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Teapartier, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side, as he was also on his way to vote for a Republican.

But a Samaritan, a man who believed in the social safety net, came by where the man was, and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and told him not to worry. He told him that he was voting for someone who would make sure that he and his wife had affordable health insurance, whether he had a job or not. He told him that he was voting for someone who would make sure his unemployment benefits wouldn’t dry up before he had a fair chance to get another job. Then he put the man in his car, registered him to vote, and brought him to the polling place. 

“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who lost his job and his health insurance?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Here in Missouri, Republicans have blocked the expansion of Medicaid, which would have been fully paid for by the federal government for the next three years. After that the state would eventually pay no more than 10% of the cost, as the program is fully phased in by 2020. The point is that it wouldn’t cost the state a dime—not a dime—until 2017, and even then it wouldn’t cost much. It is estimated that in 2015 Missouri would receive $1.7 billion to help expand the program and bring insurance to more people who can’t now afford it, which could be somewhere between 260,000 and 310,000 Missourians.

Here is a look at just who would benefit if the program were expanded today, again at no cost to the state:

medicaid expansion in missouri

Right now, without Medicaid expansion in this Jesus-loving state, if you are a parent or parents in a family of four and can’t afford private health insurance but have an income over $4,475 a year (19% of the 2013 Federal Poverty Level), you aren’t eligible for Medicaid. Yes, you read that right. If you preside over a family of four and make over $4,475 a year (a bleeping year!) but don’t make enough to buy health insurance, as a parent you are not eligible for Medicaid in Missouri. If you’re wondering, that cutoff for eligibility is the lowest allowed under the federal law that initially established the national program.

Under expansion, your family situation wouldn’t matter. Neither would your disability status. If you were parenting a family of four and earned up to $31,322 a year (based on 133% of the federal poverty level for 2013), you would be eligible for help if you didn’t otherwise have health insurance. If you were a single adult, you could earn up to $15,282 a year and qualify for health insurance under Medicaid. And as a comprehensive study indicated, the expansion is not only good for the entire state (it would actually bring in more dough to the treasury), but it is especially good for folks who live in places like where I live here in the southwest corner:

medicaid expansion map

See that? Just in our part of the state more than 60,000 of our New Testament-toting neighbors would get health insurance. Hallelujah!

Except that here in this Jesus-loving town of Joplin, here in God-fearing Southwest Missouri, lives the Majority Floor Leader of the Missouri Senate, Ron Richard. I don’t know if he loves Jesus or not, but I do know he is opposed to Medicaid expansion and voted against it last week, as did every single Republican in the Senate. Here are the duties of his august position:

The Majority Floor Leader sets the schedule of bills up for consideration by the full chamber, the time spent on floor debate for legislation, and the meeting times and dates of the Missouri Senate, among other duties.

As you can see, Ron Richard is a powerful man. He can change the dynamics of the debate on the expansion of Medicaid in Missouri in less time than it would take a House Republican to say, “Impeach the socialist in the White’s House!” Below are ways to contact him:

Jefferson City Office, Pattie: 573-751-2173

Joplin Office, Gwen: 417-623-0022

Or send him a message:

http://www.senate.mo.gov/D32WebApps/Contact.aspx
http://ronrichardmosenate.com/contact.php

You can use one or all of the above methods in order to a) ask him if he loves Jesus, or b) ask him if he wants to treat his fellow Missourians like a good neighbor, or c) do what I did and send him a message like this:

ron richard websiteI respectfully ask that Sen. Richard lead the charge on expanding Medicaid in Missouri and bring some relief to hundreds of thousands of Missourians who need health insurance. We are leaving billions of dollars on the table, money that is needed here in our state to care for our own. Do the right thing, please.

_________________________________

UPDATE: Here is the email response I received from Sen. Richard. Based on this response, it wouldn’t hurt for all of you who are interested in this issue to let him know where you stand:

Thank you for your email. This was brought up on the Senate Floor for debate. This was just the first discussion on the floor and I believe there will be a lot more before we have a chance to vote on the bill. I will keep your thoughts and comments in mind as this bill becomes perfected and we vote on the measure.

Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Ron Richard
Senator District 32

18 Comments

  1. Troy

     /  February 12, 2014

    Excellent! A wonderful parable! Pay heed republicans!

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  2. Brilliant paraphrase of a most important parable, Mr. Graham. The good news for today: the Jewish priests and Levites of Jesus’ day were essentially gone as an influence in society by 125 AD. Too much exclusion. Too little leadership. No compassion. Jesus was both teacher AND observer. Today’s “religious” GOP: ancient and hateful — will be like dust in the wind.

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    • Thanks, my friend. I like the hope you expressed, although I must say that radically conservative and reactionary Jewish believers have quite the influence in Israeli politics these days, even though their ability to influence the larger culture is, as you say, fading away. It is sort of the same thing here, no? I mean, most of the culture isn’t in tune with the evangelicals and fundamentalists, yet they have a lot of influence in our government, local, state, and federal. Hopefully it is the case that as the population replaces itself, the now-repulsive ideas that have had their day will, indeed, disappear like dust in the wind.

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  3. Duane,

    Another excellent riff on the hypocrisy and intolerance of the Jesus freaks who are elected to run our government – federal, state, and local.

    I would respectfully offer another point of view on this issue; this one is based on what I believe is an insult to and a disrespect of the founding principles of our representative democracy by those very bible-thumpers. In fact, due to your inspiration, I’m attempting to write another Op-Ed piece for the Glob. Here is an early draft:

    We all remember that most famous phrase in the Declaration of Independence that goes, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

    Fortunately, or not, depending on your own biases, “all men” was expanded from the elite WASP’s of the eighteenth century to now include women, native Americans, and all races and, indeed, all American citizens. Most recently members of the LGBT community, in some states anyway, were also given the ability to exercise their unalienable rights

    But Jefferson cleverly borrowed form John Locke’s philosophy of government. Locke and other Enlightenment philosophers developed the concept of “natural law” as a preferred alternative to the then prevailing “divine rights of kings.”

    Consider this from Locke, written four score and six years before the Declaration, in his 1690, “Second Treatise of Government,” which should sound familiar: “The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges every one: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”

    Jefferson lists just a few of these inalienable rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Others came before in the Magna Carta, more would come later in the Bill of Rights, and even more would come through the evolution of the nation’s jurisprudence.

    The point of all this background is to underscore the role of our government in assuring and protecting the natural rights and the liberty interests of the governed. These, to me, are moral imperatives.

    So now comes the Affordable Care Act, including revisions to the Medicaid program that many states are considering. I have argued here that our elected officials have a moral obligation (and perhaps a legal obligation) to assure that Americans are afforded the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, among others.

    Therefore, to the extent that lives are lost or the pursuit of happiness is compromised by any American due to the lack of medical care, then those responsible for legislation that would ameliorate such suffering but refuse to do so, are committing an immoral act and denying rights promised to that citizen by the establishment of our democratic republic.

    Now I may be way off base here, but IMHO, morality can’t be monetized. If true, then the cost of medical services is not an appropriate consideration for federal or state legislators. On the contrary, their obligation is to do whatever is needed to assure that the unalienable rights of the people are protected.

    This, to me, is no different that the government’s obligation to keep the country safe from military or terrorist attacks. Money is no object when it comes to protecting freedom and liberty. Nor should it be when it includes life and the pursuit of happiness.

    It’s way past time for the U.S. to join the rest of the developed nations in the world and provide health care to its citizens. To continue as we are is to demean our country’s founding principles and, once again, slip away from the moral high ground.

    Herb

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  4. Well reasoned and put, Herb. But — there is even less reason than there is morality in the GOP. When told, “You cannot serve God AND the love of money,” they quickly said, “Fuck, God, then.”

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  5. Good work Duane. Substitute NC for Missouri, and it’s the same story here in NC.

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    • Thanks, Helen. Hopefully after 2016 (if not before) things will look a lot different for both our states. It should be quite a telling year.

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  6. Well said by all. Herb in particular has it right by noting that health care has become a bedrock right in most countries whereas here in the land of the free it is first and foremost an economic opportunity to reap profits that have little relationship to costs. Charge masters are fiction limited only by occasional exposure in the press. In the halls of conservative Missouri politics, hypocrisy reigns, and I can’t help but think that the real opposition to Medicaid expansion derives not from any philosophy but from Mammon, pure and simple.

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    • No doubt you are right, Jim. When one thinks about it, the fact that this scandalous position by Republicans, who are in control of the various non-compliant states, is not reported on every single day by national journalists is itself a scandal. Millions upon millions are affected and hardly a peep on the nightly or weekend news. Heck, if it weren’t for MSNBC, I don’t think anyone would even be talking about it. At least it seems that way to me. And that journalistic indifference is part of the reason the you-can’t-get-insurance-because-we-hate-Obama scandal can continue.

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  7. i am curious if I will receive the same response from Mr. Richard. I concluded my message to him by stating that “It is time for the Missouri legislature and Senate to help the poor and middle-class, something that has not happened for many years in this state.

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  8. I really enjoyed the discussion above. Well put, everyone. I wish we had the equivalent of “Faux News” to reach out to progressives. MSNBC comes close, but…..

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    • If it weren’t for MSNBC, I don’t know what I would do with my TV in the day time! Waiting for CNN or Fox to cover this story about Republicans refusing to give health insurance to poor folks–because Republicans hate the president–would prove a colossal waste of time.

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  9. Please post and share this write up about Jim’s interview on KRZK

    “The Common Good”: Jim Evan’s ‘STRAIGHT TALK’

    http://mohurt.blogspot.com/2014/02/jim-evans-once-dairy-farmer-and-always.html?spref=tw

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