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Lawsuit filed after Missouri drops plans for voter-approved Medicaid expansion

(KY3)
Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 3:39 PM CDT
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KY3) - A lawsuit hits Missouri after the state dropped plans to expand the state’s Medicaid health care program, following a voter-approved measure last August.

Three Missourians filed the lawsuit Thursday through the Cole County Circuit Court. Advocates for the lawsuit say all three had been eligible for healthcare coverage under Medicaid expansion planned to start July 1.

The lawsuit challenges Missouri to implement the Medicaid expansion measure approved in August 2020. That measure would have extended the program to an estimated 275,000 low-income residents.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson dropped plans for such expansion last week, as the Republican-led Missouri Legislature refused to provide funding for the voter-approved measure.

Gov. Parson said his administration had withdrawn a request to expand coverage that had been submitted to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in compliance with a constitutional amendment passed by voters last November. He noted that the state’s $35 billion budget approved by lawmakers last week didn’t provide the funding he had requested for the expansion of Medicaid.

The Missouri Budget Project, a nonprofit public policy analysis organization in the state, released the following statement:

“Missouri legislators funded Medicaid in the state budget, and it’s clear that implementation can proceed for July 1st as planned.

Simply put, Missouri funds the health services provided through Medicaid – it does not fund specific population groups. While next year’s state budget doesn’t have a line item for Medicaid expansion adults, it doesn’t have line items for pregnant women, children, or people with disabilities either. Whoever is eligible for Medicaid can be enrolled and receive services.

On July 1st, under Missouri’s Constitution, that eligibility will be expanded to childless adults with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level – which means that doctors’ visits, medications, and other services can and should be provided through MO HealthNet at that time.

We are confident that the courts will uphold the people’s vote in support of Medicaid expansion. After years of delay, we look forward to our state being able to finally experience the many health, economic, and budget benefits of expansion.”

A group of advocates for the Healthcare for Missouri organization released this statement regarding the lawsuit:

“Voters put Medicaid expansion into the state’s constitution to deliver healthcare to more than 275,000 Missourians, help keep our rural hospitals open, and bring billions of our tax dollars home from Washington, D.C. It is not a request. It is a binding constitutional requirement that the State of Missouri must meet starting July 1 of this year.

The legislature funded Medicaid as part of its current budget, and the state does not break out funding for different groups of individuals based on the category of their Medicaid eligibility.  Under Missouri’s constitution, individuals eligible for Medicaid expansion cannot be treated differently than any other Medicaid eligible population.

We have confidence that the courts will uphold Missouri’s constitution and respect the democratic vote of its citizens. We fully support the lawsuit to enforce Missouri’s constitution and applaud these great Missouri citizens for their courage in standing up for Missouri’s democracy and all of our friends, families, and neighbors who need access to healthcare.”

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