JEFFERSON CITY, Mon. (KMIZ)
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state’s voter-approved Medicaid expansion does not violate the constitution’s prohibition on voters creating new programs that are not funded.
In its 14-page unanimous decision, the court sent the case back to the Cole County District Court and ordered the judge to render a verdict in favor of those who requested an expansion of the program. Three women eligible under the extension sued the state in May after lawmakers failed to allocate additional money to the program and Governor Mike Parson ordered his administration not to extend eligibility.
The extended eligibility should start on July 1st with the new budget year of the state. Voters approved the amendment to expand the health insurance program for low wage earners last August. The expansion would increase income requirements and call an estimated 275,000 more Missourians in question for Medicaid.
Cole County’s District Judge Jon Beetem ruled in the state’s favor last month, arguing that the constitution’s prohibition on allowing voter-approved changes to create new programs without funding meant expansion could not go ahead. Proponents of expansion argued that the vote did not create a new program, but merely expanded an existing program that lawmakers had to fund.
The Supreme Court opinion also found that lawmakers’ grant bills did not preclude funding to cover an expanded Medicaid population.
“Clearly, the amounts allocated … cannot be used to change the plain language of the purposes stated – to fund MO HealthNet without distinguishing between benefits for those eligible as part of the pre-expansion population” and the The court wrote in its opinion about the newly eligible claimants.
A spokesman for the Missouri Attorney General who spoke out in court against an expansion said the office would not comment as the case was pending.
MO HealthNet, the name of the state’s Medicaid program, has one of the strictest licensing rules in the country. It does not apply to most non-disabled adults without children. Parents can qualify if their household income is below 21% of the state poverty line, which is less than $ 5,000 per year for a family of three in 2021.
As part of the expansion, a person making about $ 18,000 a year would be eligible.
“Today was another big win for all Missourians,” Caitlyn Adams, executive director of Missouri Jobs with Justice, said in a statement. “This decision restores confidence in our democracy and that popular power continues to prevail over the political platform. For more than a decade, we have urged Jefferson City lawmakers to do the right thing and expand Medicaid.”
The American Cancer Society’s network of action also praised the decision. “Increasing Medicaid eligibility improves access to vital health services, dramatically reduces the inequalities between health and cancer, and improves cancer survival,” said Emily Kalmer, director of government relations.
The Conservative Americans For Prosperity-Missouri Group said the ruling jeopardized the “long-term health of the state”.
“Missouri taxpayers are now facing possible cuts in education or a tax increase to cover these new costs,” State Director Jeremy Cady said in a statement.
Look back to learn more about this developing story.
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