(The Center Square) – A circuit court judge on Tuesday ruled the state of Missouri must immediately begin enrolling eligible recipients into the state’s expanded Medicaid program, even though state officials said it would take two months to do so.
Judge Jon Beetem’s two-page ruling on Tuesday instructs Missouri to stop “imposing any greater or additional burdens or restrictions on eligibility or enrollment standards, methodologies, or practices … than any other population eligible for benefits under the MO HealthNet program,” Missouri’s Medicaid progra
The ruling was announced as Gov. Mike Parson celebrated the 200th anniversary of the day Missouri became a state on the capitol steps in Jefferson City.
“I haven’t seen the entire ruling, but let me say this: I’m going to follow the law,” Parson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I’ve always done that and always will continue to do that.
“We all know what the obstacle is. We don’t have the funding to support it right now. So we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to do that, you know, whether we’re going to dilute the pool of money that we have now for the people that’s on the program, and just how we’re going to move forward.”
Missouri voters approved Medicaid expansion last August, but the legislature decided against funding it in April and the governor stopped implementation plans in May.
After a unanimous ruling on the constitutionality of Medicaid Expansion by the Missouri Supreme Court in July, the lawsuit challenging the legislature’s decision was sent back to Beetem for a ruling. Last week, the state argued it would take approximately two months for MO HealthNet, the state’s Medicaid program, to be able to enroll eligible people.
Messages to House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, budget chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, and attorney general Eric Schmitt, a Republic candidate for the seat of retiring U.S. Senator Roy Blunt, weren’t immediately returned.
Last month, Smith told the Missouri Times he was willing to work with Parson on finding a funding solution for expansion, but he didn’t envision appropriating additional money before the end of the year. About 90% of the estimated cost of $1.9 billion for the expansion will be paid by federal funds, leaving about $150 billion in additional costs to be funded by state taxpayers.
“If the department is compelled through judicial action to implement and enroll benefits toward the expansion program, they’re going to have to pay for it out of money appropriated for other populations in the Medicaid program,” Smith said. “That means they will run out of money much sooner than they would normally, and unless they cut Medicaid rates or shoehorn the benefits into the amount appropriated – which means cutting services to someone somewhere – they’re going to have to ask for additional appropriation for additional benefits.”
Rep. Raheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis, on Tuesday sent a letter to Parson requesting a special legislative session to appropriate additional funding.
“We have already put expansion off for too long, even before the drama of last year,” Aldridge wrote. “Medicaid expansion would have helped our state during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially benefiting people of color and Missourians who live in high poverty communities by providing greater access to much needed medical care.”
After the ruling, Democrats proclaimed an end to any delay of Medicaid expansion.
“Can’t think of a better way to celebrate Missouri’s 200th birthday than the will of the voters being upheld and the Missouri Constitution ensuring access to healthcare for 275,000 Missourians,” Crystal Quade, D-Springfield and house minority leader, posted on social media.
A formal statement from Quade’s office emphasized the end of any obstructions to the will of 53% of voters who approved the measure. Adults between the ages of 19 and 64 who make less than 138% of the poverty level – approximately $18,000 – became eligible on July 1.
Originally Appeared Here