Missouri Democrat running for governor unveils health agenda

Summer Ballentine
Associated Press
Nicole Galloway

COLUMBIA — Democratic candidate for Missouri governor Nicole Galloway said Wednesday that she wants to pass a state law protecting health insurance for people with preexisting conditions.

The proposal is part of the state auditor's health care plan if voters elect her over Republican Gov. Mike Parson on Nov. 3. She also pledged to enact Medicaid expansion as called for by voters, attempt to bring down health care and prescription drug costs, and promote more primary care clinics in rural and predominantly Black areas.

"Missouri families need healthcare coverage that isn't eating up more-and-more of their paycheck; and they need access to quality care close to home," Galloway said in a statement. "As Governor, my focus will be on lowering the cost of healthcare for Missouri families — especially as we build our way back from this pandemic."

Former President Barack Obama's federal health care law already requires health insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions. The law also bars insurers from charging more to people because of past medical problems and from canceling coverage, except in cases of fraud.

But Missouri and other states are suing to overturn the law. Galloway's plan calls for a backup state law protecting people with preexisting conditions in case the federal law is undone.

Forcing insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions is popular, including among Republicans.

President Donald Trump last week teased the possibility of executive action to require health insurance companies to cover preexisting medical conditions.

Galloway and Parson's most notable split on health care policy is over whether to expand Medicaid eligibility to thousands more low-income adults in Missouri, which voters approved in August.

Galloway supported the plan. Parson did not, but he's repeatedly said he'll implement it anyway. Parson had raised concerns that expanding Medicaid would be expensive and might mean cuts to education spending and other programs.

His campaign raised similar concerns about Galloway's overall health care agenda.

"Nicole Galloway's plan for healthcare represents more government, higher taxes, and fewer results for Missourians," Parson campaign manager Steele Shippy said in a statement.

The financial impact of expanding Medicaid is uncertain, but it could cost the state at least $200 million or save as much as $1 billion annually by 2026, according to estimates from Galloway's office. The auditor's office is required to provide financial estimates for ballot measures.

Missouri's Medicaid program currently does not cover most adults without children, and its income eligibility threshold for parents is one of the lowest in the nation at about one-fifth of the poverty level.

Shippy cited a rural health care summit Parson organized in 2018, funding for telehealth medical care and providing personal protective equipment to first responders amid the coronavirus pandemic as examples of what Parson has done on health care since becoming governor in 2018.

An independent political action committee backing Parson's bid for another term on Wednesday released an ad describing Medicaid expansion as "government-controlled health care" that would mean higher taxes.

The Uniting Missouri ad tries to tie Galloway's stances on health care to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Sen. Elizabeth Warren.