Lack of access to health care is one of the leading reasons why African Americans in Missouri are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. But progress was made on Aug. 4 when Missouri voters voted to expand Medicaid, allowing over 200,000 nonelderly adults to become eligible for health care coverage.

Now, all four of Kansas’ neighboring states have expanded Medicaid.

The vote was close, with just over 53% of Missouri voters approving the initiative, making Missouri the 38th state to accept Medicaid expansion.

The expansion will take effect on July 1, 2021. Coverage will be available to adults up to 65 years old, with an income at or below the 138% of the federal poverty level. The amendment stops the state from imposing additional eligibility requirements.

Since the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, only those with an income equal to or above 100% of the Federal poverty line qualified for ACA coverage. Individuals who earn less than $17,600 or a family of three earning less than $30,000, were left without coverage, unless their income was low enough to allow them to qualify for Medicaid. Individuals whose income was below 100% of poverty and above Missouri’s Medicaid qualifying level, were left uninsured.

An income low enough to qualify for Missouri’s Medicaid program is about one-fifth of the poverty level, one of the lowest eligibility thresholds in the nation, and the program doesn’t cover most adults without children. So, about 230,000 people have been caught in the lack-of-eligibility gap.

It was left up to states to decide whether to expand Medicaid to cover individuals who fell in the gap. If they expanded Medicaid, as part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pay up to 90% of the cost.

Missouri’s successful vote comes after several unsuccessful efforts to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot. The organization, Healthcare for Missouri led the push this time to get the issue on the ballot. The group, with wide community support successfully secured almost twice as many signatures than they needed to put the issue on the 2020 ballot.

Kansas remains one of 12 states that have yet to expand Medicaid.

Jazzlyn Johnson is a Report for America corps member based at The Community Voice covering Kansas City’s African-American community.

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Jazzlyn Johnson

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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