by Brendan Cullerton

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s call for legislators to expand government-financed Medicaid health coverage was one of the major topics before state lawmakers during the first days of their 2013 session.

At issue is the governor’s proposal to expand Medicaid to cover anyone under 133 percent of the federal poverty line instead of the current 18 percent mark for most adults.

The federal government would pay 100 percent of the financial burden imposed by Medicaid expansion for the first three years. After the initial grace period, Missouri would start to become responsible for up to 10 percent of the cost.

Gov. Nixon said on Thursday, Jan. 10, that since elections are over, it’s time for real debate about the issue.

“It was just are you for it or against it,” Nixon said. “Elections are over, and now the depth of analysis that has to come to get to public policy decisions is beginning.”

Republicans, however, expressed concern about the ultimate cost to Missouri for the expansion and the cost to state funding for other programs such as education.

Federal law would provide full financing for the first few years of the Medicaid expansion with Missouri ultimately having to cover 10 percent of the estimated $1 billion expansion.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County, said the federal government cannot be trusted to keep its promise to restrict the state’s share because of how much debt it already has.

“The rhetoric does not meet the reality in my perspective,” Dempsey said.

Nixon said Missourians would benefit by Medicaid expansion because they would get their taxes back.

“I think the Missourians that pay…their taxes and send it to Washington are much more interested in those being expended here, in the Show-Me State, than they are to provide health care for folks in New York or California,” Nixon said.