Medicaid Expansion: Who Decides?

Missouri is one of 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid to cover people who earn up to 138 percent above the poverty line. Currently, Missouri Medicaid provides insurance for disabled individuals, low-income pregnant women, children in low-income homes, and some poor seniors. For any other adult to qualify, they must have nonadult children and a family income that falls below 22 percent of FPL. For example, a family of three would need a household income of less than $400 per month for a parent to receive coverage. Non-disabled adults without children are not eligible even if they have medical conditions. They do not qualify until they are declared disabled.

Plans are underway to gather petition signatures to get Medicaid expansion on the November 2020 ballot. If Missouri voters at the ballot box opt to expand Medicaid, it will save an estimated $39 million in 2020. If this comes to a vote next year, Missourians will have the power to expand health care coverage to people who need it most. In many instances, a vote yes will be far more personal than political.

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Vaping-Related Lung Illnesses Mount

Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes or vapes, work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol that users inhale, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC, along with other federal, state and local agencies and organizations, is investigating a multistate outbreak of lung disease associated with e-cigarette product use. As of September 25, 2019, 500 cases of vaping-related lung illness were reported from 36 states and one U.S. territory. Six deaths have been reported from six states. This includes at least seven vaping-related illnesses and one death in Missouri.

According to the FDA, teen electronic cigarette use has skyrocketed by nearly 80 percent in the past year. They reported earlier this year that 1.3 million more high school students are vaping now than in 2017. With e-cigarette usage increasing among youth and reports showing vaping-related illnesses and deaths,  the current administration announced it will move to force e-cigarette companies to take flavored vaping products off the market.

Adults and teens often perceive vaping as safer than smoking cigarettes. The CDC, the surgeon general’s office, and public health organizations all point to evidence disputing this claim. For more information about vaping and its impact, visit

Missouri Renews Focus on Untested Rape Kits

It will take several years to fully clear Missouri’s backlog of untested rape kits, an official in Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office said in February. The magnitude of untested rape kits in Missouri is unknown. An audit in 2018 conducted by then-Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office found 5,424 untested rape kits. Since agencies were not required to participate in this audit, there are probably many kits that have yet to be uncovered. After this audit, Missouri legislators enacted a law requiring the state to develop procedures for gathering, transmitting, and storing rape kits.

This year, Missouri legislators introduced a bill that would grant victims the right to have their kit preserved for the duration of the maximum applicable statute of limitations. This bill failed to pass.

Schmitt’s office has made evaluating Missouri’s untested rape kits a focus. Funding for the tests comes from a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Missouri received last fall. Schmitt, who took office at the beginning of 2019, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he’s not sure why untested kits increased over the years without intervention. Through working with local enforcement, he hopes to gain a better understanding.

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School-Aged Children and Concussions

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of death and disability in the United States. According to the latest reports from the CDC, in 2014, an estimated 812,000 children (age 17 or younger) were treated in U.S. emergency departments for concussion or TBI, alone or in combination with other injuries.

Concussions are a common occurrence among student athletes. Most sports-related head injuries such as concussions – which temporarily interfere with the way the brain works – are mild and allow for complete recovery, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, concussion in children can pose serious health risks. Statistics collected by the University of Pittsburg Medical Center (UPMC) Sports Medicine Concussion Program show 2 in 10 high school athletes who play contact sports including soccer and lacrosse will suffer a concussion this year.

Many states, schools, sports leagues, and organizations have established policies or action plans for concussions in youth and high school sports. While these policy efforts show some promise, more research is needed to learn if these strategies can help educate coaches and parents about this issue and help protect children and teens from concussions and other serious brain injuries, reports the CDC.

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America’s Opioid Crisis

When prescribed and used appropriately, opioids can help patients suffering from excruciating pain caused by injury or illness. Used improperly, however, opioids can be crippling and even deadly.

For years, drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and meperidine have been first-tier options for pain relief. The high rate of opioid prescriptions has led to millions of Americans suffering from opioid use disorder. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that, of those who began abusing opioids in the 2000s, 75 percent reported that their first opioid was a prescription drug.

“More than 1,100 Missourians lost their lives to opioid-related overdoses last year,” said U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.) in an August 2019 interview with KHQA-TV. “Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control projects that, from 2017 to 2018, our state saw around a 16 percent increase in overdose deaths. This is nothing less than a public health crisis.”

Combating the opioids crisis is a top priority for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). The department is working with several different types of agencies and organizations to fight this crisis and help save lives. For more information, visit

Female Incarceration on the Rise

Cyntoia Brown spent 15 years in a Tennessee prison for killing a man who solicited her for sex when she was 16. Celebrity activists Rihanna and LeBron James stood by Brown, arguing that she is a survivor of sex trafficking and eventually killed, in self-defense, the man who solicited her. More than 370,000 signed a petition that urged then Gov. Bill Haslam (R) to grant her clemency. In August, Brown was released on parole. However, she is the exception and not the rule.

Violence perpetuated against women and girls can put them at risk for incarceration because their survival strategies are routinely criminalized. From being coerced into criminal activity by their abusers, to fighting back to defend their lives or their children’s lives, survivors of domestic violence can find themselves in an impossible spot. They can stay in the abusive relationship, leave, face a higher likelihood of being killed if they leave, or fight back and face a prison sentence. “Most battered women who kill in self-defense end up in prison,” said Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “There is a well-documented bias against women in these cases.”

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