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An Interview with Rep. Jacob Hummel on Medicaid Expansion in Missouri

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AARP Missouri: Thank you for the opportunity to hear your thoughts about Medicaid reform. Recently, AARP conducted an interview with Sen. Ryan Silvey (R-17) and disseminated his comments on this subject. AARP is not endorsing any particular plan, but AARP is interested in hearing your views and thoughts from the other side of the aisle.

Rep. Hammel: Several members have filed multiple bills dealing with Medicaid expansion. We have tried to get hearings on those bills. There had been some hearings from members on the other side of the aisle. We have continued to offer amendments on the flow on different bills where the chapters are open for Medicaid expansion and we’re going to continue to do so until the last day of session.

AARP Missouri: Why is it important to provide coverage for low income individuals?

Rep. Hammel: Low income individuals are just that – they’re low income. They’re not out there not working at all; these are people that are working for a living, trying to put their kids through school, trying to put food on the table, and they just don’t make enough money to pay for health insurance. This is a way for us to give them a leg up in life, to allow them to continue to work as hard as they are, and not have to make the choice between going to the doctor and putting a meal on the table.

AARP Missouri: What do you think is the value of providing healthcare coverage for more people?

Rep. Hammel: Well, the more people that are covered, the less money that we’re going to have to spend in emergency rooms. Everyone that has health insurance right now is paying a portion of that health insurance to make up for the loss of uncompensated care. Hospitals cannot refuse someone when they go to the emergency room for care. It would be unethical. I don’t think, as a society, that’s something that we want to consider.

The problem is, when you don’t have health insurance and you can’t afford to go to the doctor, what is your option? That is your only option. So when we expand the pool of insured Missourians, more people are covered, less people are using the emergency room as their doctor’s office, and everyone else’s insurance rates should start to go down because we’ve covered people that don’t have health insurance.

AARP Missouri: What will this mean for low income individuals 50 and older – the AARP population?

Rep. Hammel: From age 50 to 64 or 65, they don’t have Medicare and so there’s that gap. There’s the donut hole. This is a way for those people to get health insurance and continue working to try to be able to save some money…It just gives them that extra leg up in life so that they can continue working and not have to worry about paying the electric bill versus paying for their prescription drugs.

AARP Missouri: What else would you like to add to these comments regarding Medicaid expansion in Missouri?

Rep. Hammel: Well, it shouldn’t be a partisan issue. And I think, if you look, we have members from the other side of the aisle that have filed legislation. This doesn’t just affect people in St. Louis City, it doesn’t just affect people in the bootheel, doesn’t just have an affect on people in Springfield, Joplin and Kansas City. There are people that need Medicaid all across the state. It crosses party lines. We can’t make this a referendum on the national healthcare law.

This is a way for us to keep working Missourians working and I can’t think of a more non-partisan issue than to put people to work. They’re always talking about job creation – this is a job retention bill. If people have to choose between not working and going on welfare because they can’t afford their insurance, I think it’s a pretty cut and dried decision.

I think this is a way that we can work to lower everyone’s insurance premiums, keep people working, and allow them to use their doctors for what they are – for preventive care as opposed to spending all of this money in the emergency room where we all know the costs are quadrupled.

AARP Missouri: Thank you for your time, Rep. Hammel.

Rep. Hammel: Thank you.

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