Legislative Column for the Week of Jan. 19, 2015
Expanding Healthcare Coverage for Missouri Veterans

Shown above, Sen. Silvey with members of the Missouri Association of Veterans (MAVO), who he worked with on legislation to expand Medicaid coverage to veterans in the Show-Me State.

The Affordable Care Act has created a coverage gap for those who earn between 19 and 138 percent of the poverty level. These individuals have no access to healthcare insurance. Those who fall below 19 percent are allowed to enroll in the state’s Medicaid program. Those who earn more than 138 percent receive a federal subsidy to help cover the costs of joining a private plan through an insurance marketplace. Those left in the middle? Out of luck. This has left thousands of Missourians without healthcare coverage, with little recourse currently available to them.

During the interim, I and other members of the General Assembly began holding meetings around the state to see how we could address this serious problem. As we examined the issue, it came to our attention—largely thanks to the Missouri Association of Veterans Organizations—that there are a considerable number of veterans who fall into the coverage gap.

These are men and women who risked their lives to defend our nation. They endured hardships many of us can’t even imagine, and did so selflessly, in the hopes of protecting the democratic principles this country was founded upon. As citizens, I feel we have an obligation to support these soldiers at home as much as we possibly can, and this includes providing them with basic healthcare coverage.

Over the last few sessions, we’ve seen staunch opposition to any proposal that would expand Medicaid in Missouri. Many members have vowed to filibuster expansion at all costs. I respect those legislators’ rights to defend their policy positions, but this political entrenchment is doing harm to our citizens, including veterans and their families, the very people we so often try to help as a legislative body. 

This year, I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 287, known as the Veterans Family Healthcare Act, which will be specifically targeted toward veterans. Under the bill, veterans who fall below 138 percent of the poverty level would be eligible for Medicaid benefits in Missouri. According to the most recent estimates from the nonpartisan Urban Institute, this would give around 25,000 veterans and their families healthcare coverage.

I hope my colleagues in the Senate can look past the partisanship surrounding the Affordable Care Act and seize an opportunity to greatly improve the lives of the men and women who fought for our liberties.

In other news, I was proud to join members from both chambers this week to discuss civics education in Missouri. In recent years, there has been a growing trend of strengthening students’ knowledge of civics, the study of how our government operates. Arizona recently became the first state in the nation requiring high school students to pass the U.S. Citizenship test in order to graduate.

This year, I’m proud to sponsor the Missouri Civics Education Initiative, which would require every high school student in Missouri to receive a 60 out of 100 score on a test similar to the civics portion of the U.S. Naturalization Test to receive a diploma.

Civic involvement is one of the most important traits we can instill in our children. We’re blessed to live in a republic that affords us inalienable rights, one of the most important of which is being an active, involved member of local, state and federal government. Unfortunately, we’ve witnessed a trend in the last decade of fewer and fewer citizens exercising that right, including lower voter turnout for elections and a lack of volunteers for local or state boards and commissions.

I think a great deal of that can be attributed to lack of education on civics and how the government works. People don’t know how much power they have to influence policy decisions at the Capitol, and that’s a travesty, because we’re here to serve them. The Civics Education Initiative is a nonpartisan effort that will equip our students with the knowledge they need to be active in the political process and empower them to enact the changes they wish to see in their state. 

As always, I am here to serve the 17th District. I welcome any discussion, questions or concerns regarding Missouri government. Please feel free to contact me at the State Capitol: (573) 751-5282, ryan.silvey@senate.mo.gov, or by writing to Sen. Ryan Silvey, Missouri State Capitol, 201 W. Capitol Ave., Room 331A, Jefferson City, MO 65101.