Elias Tsapelas

Missourians hoping for a reprieve from rising health care costs will have to wait at least another year. Once again, the legislature failed to pass any measures to rein in growing costs. The Trump administration has made it easier for states across the country to request waivers from Obamacare’s most costly mandates. However, instead of applying for waivers that could help reduce health care costs, the state’s policymakers decided to devote their time to doling out generous tax incentives for General Motors.

The cost of health care is hurting the state’s budget and Missourians’ pocketbooks. This year, Missouri passed the largest budget in the state’s history and Medicaid is a bigger portion of the budget than any other single item. Medicaid today consumes more of the budget than ever before, and shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, Missouri’s Medicaid enrollment today is less than it was in 2005, but the program costs nearly twice as much.

Premiums for private coverage also continue to rise, partly as a result of restrictions imposed by the Affordable Care Act. My colleagues have advocated for the expansion of short-term medical plans to help ease cost inflation. Short-term medical plans allow consumers to personalize their coverage without costly Obamacare restrictions, such as mandated maternity and mental health coverage. Bills that would expand short-term plans have received support in both chambers the past two years. Hopefully a bill expanding the availability of short-term plans will finally pass next year.

The lone bright spot in health care policy was the creation of the “Missouri Health Insurance Innovation Task Force.” When the task force meets later this year, they will “develop innovative ways to transform the health insurance marketplace” and request an innovation waiver from the federal government. I’ll be outlining some market-based reforms the task force should consider in a future blog post.

The work of this task force and the reforms they consider could bring substantial health care savings for Missourians. Sadly, the implementation of any reforms won’t be completed until at least next year.  It’s nice to have a glimmer of hope for the future, but that doesn’t make the present any less disappointing.


About the Author

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Elias Tsapelas

Elias Tsapelas earned his Master of Arts in Economics from the University of Missouri in 2016. His research interests include economic development, health policy, and budget-related issues.