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Yesterday evening the Missouri Rural Crisis Center sponsored a panel discussion on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and Medicaid expansion in Missouri. The center has been organizing these discussion across the state. Last night the panel included Aaron Swaney, a certified application counselor with the Family Health Center; Amanda Avent, Corporate Events Director, American Heart Association; Ruth McKinney, Family Development Specialist, Missouri Valley Community Action Agency; Mike Sutherland, Public Policy Director, Missouri Budget Project; Brendan Cossette, Director of Government Affairs, Missouri Primary Care Association; Brian Smith a rural organizer with the Missouri Rural Crisis Center; and Reverend Heather Jepsen, Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Warrensburg.

The panel for the Missouri Rural Crisis Center’s discussion on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion held in Warrensburg on April 2, 2015.

The panel outlined the economic and budgetary reasons for implementing Medicaid expansion (specifically, the coverage gap) in Missouri. They also explained the practical impact on rural communities – with the current absence of expansion hurting rural hospitals and local economies.

The was some hand wringing on the part of some panel members about being polite when contacting recalcitrant representatives in the General Assembly. Individuals in the audience expressed frustration about their representatives’ lack of understanding and knee jerk ideological opposition to Obama and Medicaid expansion.

Members of the General Assembly who represent the area did not attend the event.  

The panel took questions from the audience. Interestingly, one individual couldn’t quite grasp the negative economic and moral implications of denying access to health care to the working poor. Everyone else in attendance appeared to get it.

Reverend Heather Jepsen, First Presbyterian Church, Warrensburg.

Reverend Heather Jepsen, Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Warrensburg: ….You’ve heard the numbers and you’ve heard the logic. I’m here to give a faith perspective on expanding Medicaid. As you may or may not know, all faith traditions encourage their followers to care for the vulnerable and the most needy in their communities. Obviously I’m from the Christian faith. When Jesus Christ is asked to sum up the whole of the tradition he says, Love your God and love your neighbor. To ignore our neighbors in need is to ignore our God and to ignore our faith. We call ourselves a Christian nation and then we turn around and create a system where health care becomes a privilege for the wealthy rather than a right for every individual in our midst. There is absolutely no excuse for this coverage gap. As people of faith [applause] we should consider it an act of faith to demand that our legislators put, make policy changes that care for all people in our state. We should demand it. It is a faith act. Go out and do it for your neighbor and for your God. [applause]

Now, to get the right wingnut republican controlled Missouri General Assembly to understand that.