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Health director says regions medical safety net in jeopardy

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- The Affordable Health Care Act called for states to expand Medicaid coverage.  But the Missouri Legislature said no.

This summer a Missouri House committee of citizens and lawmakers is studying how Medicaid works in the state and what would happen if it were expanded.  The final public hearing took place Wednesday at Forest Park Community College.

"There are problems with the current system and we need to really address those to have any chance of doing anything else with this," said Interim Committee Chair State Rep. Noel Torpey, a Republican from Independence.

St. Louis City Health Department Director Pam Walker told the committee the region's medical safety net is in jeopardy if federal funding dries up at the end of December.  St. Louis City uses five million dollars of local funds to match 19 million in federal dollars to help provide the uninsured poor with primary care.   Walker says those dollars have provided health care to 25,000 low income, local residents and improved health outcomes.

"In the last ten years heart disease mortality decreased by 26 percent and deaths due to strokes dropped 36 percent," Walker said.

Those federal dollars come through programs that are being eliminated so revenue can be shifted to the Affordable Health Care Act.  The lack of Medicaid expansion is also expected to cause layoffs at hospitals and other health care providers.

Critics of the Medicaid expansion warn Missouri will be forced to shoulder more of the cost within three years.  Others predict the entire Obamacare program will fail.

Once the legislative report is written it will go to a second committee that is preparing to write new legislation to be introduced in January.

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