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Health care advocates protest Missouri's Medicaid purge

Jen Bersdale, executive director of Missouri Health Care for All, and her 4-year-old son Torin Bersdale, protest on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019, at the corner of Lindell and Kingshighway boulevards. Photo by Christian Gooden,

Location. Location. Location. It does matter — in lives. If 200,000 Missourians lived across the river in Illinois, they would qualify for Medicaid. This federal program pays 90% of the costs. But year after year, Missouri politicians have chosen not to expand it — a decision some groups are trying to reverse by getting signatures to put the option on the 2020 ballot.

A recent University of Michigan study found Medicaid expansion substantially reduced mortality rates from 2014 to 2017. The researchers said Illinois averted 345 deaths annually while Missouri had 194 additional deaths each year. The same trends held for other side-by-side states such as Kentucky and New Mexico, which did expand, and Tennessee and Texas, which did not.

Even if one doesn’t care about the human cost, one should care about the economic cost. Treating a disease at its first stage is always going to be much cheaper than treating it at its advanced stage.

Having insurance helps people stay productive. The person who gets sick can’t work, can’t support his or her family, and can’t be a consumer and buy goods. If they’re not working, they can’t pay taxes. It’s a snowball that keeps rolling downhill. If we can’t get it right, it’s going to have bigger repercussions across the nation.

Missouri has a chance to get it right.

Ed Shew • Lake Saint Louis