Speeches & Writings

University leaders unite behind Medicaid expansion

As the leaders of two of this region’s major research universities, we cannot sit idly by as the August 4 election draws near and not speak to a critical opportunity in front of us. It is time to act and expand Medicaid.

This is among the issues we will soon be called to vote on, identified on the ballot as Amendment 2. 

We are seeing the disproportionate ways COVID-19 impacts vulnerable members of our community. Those who have limited or no access to health care are at an even greater risk. In St. Louis, this includes a devastating number of our Black colleagues, neighbors and friends. 

Too many in our community have to choose between funding their health care needs or day care –– medical care to improve their quality of life, or feeding their family. During this pandemic, these disadvantages are magnified.

Our two universities wholeheartedly supported the report and the work of Forward Through Ferguson, whose 2015 report identifies Medicaid expansion among the key steps our region and state must take to address health disparities.

Over the past month, both Washington University and Saint Louis University have released statements expressing our shared concern for the inequities that plague every part of our society. Condemning systemic problems is not enough. We must take steps to fix the systems. Addressing the disparate access to health care for people of color –– particularly Black members of our community –– is a necessary and important step we must take. 

Voting yes on Amendment 2 brings federal dollars back to Missouri to serve the people who deserve them. Statewide, that means 230,000 hard-working people – including 36,000 Black Missourians – will have access to health care they currently cannot afford. We owe it to them to bridge this unethical gap by making sure our voices are heard.

Andrew D. Martin is chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis, and Fred P. Pestello is president of Saint Louis University.

This editorial was published in the St. Louis American on July 23, 2020.