Protesters demand Medicaid expansion as legislative session nears

Demonstrators gathered outside the Capitol Plaza Hotel Tuesday evening calling on state lawmakers to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Demonstrators on Tuesday evening said they were tired of Missouri lawmakers not voting on Medicaid expansion.

About two dozen activists gathered outside the Capitol Plaza Hotel Tuesday evening demanding state lawmakers expand eligibility for the state's Medicaid program. The protest comes less than a day before the new legislative session begins. Democratic lawmakers have once again filed legislation that would expand Missouri's Medicaid program to anyone with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line. Although some Republican lawmakers have proposed using private options to expand Medicaid access, party leaders have expressed little support for a straight expansion. Rep. John Diehl, R-Town and Country, who is expected to become the new Speaker of the House, said in November that Medicaid "doesn't even come close to being able to perform and process people under the current eligibility,"

Medicaid expansion is a personal issue for Rev. Emmett Baker, of Beth-El Baptist Church in Bellefontaine Neighbors. Baker said his daughter died of a blood clot that a routine checkup would have detected had she been able to afford a regular physician. He said his daughter made too much money to be Medicaid-eligible but could not afford her own insurance.

"Too many people are dying just for that simple reason," he said.

Doyle Sager, senior pastor at Jefferson City's First Baptist Church, said expanding Medicaid would mean healthier and more productive Missourians. He said activists will continue to lobby state lawmakers throughout the legislative session.