Missouri healthcare enrollment success still leaves room for improvement

May 2, 2014

Credit Rosemary / Flickr

The US Department of Health and Human Services released data Thursday showing that 152,335 Missourians are enrolled in health insurance marketplace plans. The number of enrollees more than doubled in March alone, the total exceeding the federal goal by 29 percent.

Data also showed, however, that 300,000 people in the state are unable to get insurance due to ineligibility for Medicaid or financial help in the marketplace.

Vice president of health policy for the Missouri Foundation for Health, Ryan Barker, said that while the numbers are a huge victory for the state and the consumers, there is much more to be done.

“There are still about 300,000 Missourians that fall into this coverage gap,” he said.

A state-wide expansion of Medicaid could remedy this problem.

“That is a decision that’s left up to our state legislature, but it is the most vulnerable Missourians, who are low-wage workers, who are left without any insurance option,” Barker said.

Self-employed artist from West Plains, Missouri, Janet Weilbrenner, says the Affordable Care Act allowed her to afford to get health insurance for the first time in four years.

“I had to drop my insurance in 2008 when they raised my premiums,” she said. “It was a real blow to get beyond 50 [years old] and suddenly not be able to afford it.”

Weilbrenner said having insurance gives her peace of mind that if she should fall ill, high medical bills won’t cause her to lose her home.

But, Weilbrenner said the act won’t be a complete success until Medicaid is expanded across the state.

“You need the entire package,” she said. “An act that is supposed to help those of us that need it the most is failing miserably because we haven’t taken the expansion.”

Currently though, Barker says the number of young Missourians who enrolled in marketplace plans this period indicates that the marketplace is healthy.

“We have a good, good selection of young people. That will help keep the marketplace stable, and so we shouldn't expect huge jumps in the premiums for next year because we have that stability in the marketplace with a good mix of younger and older folks.”

Thirty percent of Missouri enrollees were aged between 18 and 34, two percent higher than the national average.