Passage of an amendment to the Missouri Constitution to expand the Medicaid program will provide greater access to health insurance coverage for the working poor, according to the state’s Catholic bishops.
A statement from the Missouri Catholic Conference, the public policy agency of the bishops, also reached out to some members of the pro-life community in the state who had opposed the amendment, fearing that expansion would increase access to abortion if current restrictions on Medicaid funding of abortions are removed in the future.
Unofficial results from the Missouri secretary of state’s office showed the amendment passed Aug. 4 with a 53.2 % majority. The Catholic bishops of Missouri, Catholic Charities of the state’s four dioceses and other Catholic entities supported the amendment. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson had said expansion “is consistent with our commitment to life.”
The bishops, in their statement following the vote, said “we are hopeful that the expansion of this important program will improve health outcomes for those with unmet health care needs as well as help Missouri’s hospitals keep their doors open, especially in rural parts of the state.”
Missouri was one of only 13 states in which non-disabled adults between the ages of 19 and 64 are generally ineligible for Medicaid no matter how low their income. Even custodial parents raising children are often ineligible: a single parent raising two children, for instance, qualified for Medicaid only with annual income below $4,778. This is the third-most restrictive eligibility requirement for custodial parents in the country.
The bishops’ statement noted that the vote came with great anxiety for some members of Missouri’s pro-life community. “We want to make it clear that our support for human life at all stages is unwavering. Indeed, helping those in need obtain health care is part of being pro-life and part of our call from Christ to see Him in the face of those less fortunate. We believe providing low-income working mothers with health insurance coverage that remains in place after they deliver will reduce the demand for abortions.”
The bishops also pledge continued support to ensuring the Hyde Amendment remains a part of federal law, “and to walk with mothers in need who face unplanned pregnancies.”
The Hyde Amendment prohibits the expenditure of federal funds for abortions except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest. Expanding Medicaid in Missouri does not change Hyde Amendment restrictions. The Missouri Catholic Conference stated earlier that public opinion polls show that the majority of Americans do not support publicly funded abortions and that it would not be politically viable or sustainable for Congress or a future administration to force states to pay for abortion in their Medicaid programs.
The Catholic Conference joined other supporters of the amendment in stating a desire that the Missouri legislature will fund “this important program in the face of the fiscal challenges brought on by the current health crisis.”