The Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday overturned a lower court ruling in the state’s Medicaid expansion case, agreeing that the voter-approved plan to bring Medicaid to more people should be maintained.
The unanimous decision returns the case to Cole County Circuit Court. The state Supreme Court ruled that the 2020 ballot measure approving the expansion of the government-run health care plan does not violate the Missouri Constitution because it “does not affect money or take away not the discretion of the General Assembly to allocate money to MO HealthNet “.
The decision came just nine days after the Supreme Court heard the case, and a month after a Cole County judge overturned the constitutional amendment Republican Gov. Mike Parson refused to implement after the GOP-led legislature provided no funding.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three women newly eligible for Medicaid. Their lawyer, Chuck Hatfield, told the Supreme Court last week that the state’s actions “would essentially overturn the election.”
But Solicitor General John Sauer had asked the Supreme Court to leave the amendment in effect and “preserve the traditional authority of the legislature” over the budget.
Messages left in Hatfield and the Missouri attorney general’s office were not immediately returned.
Supporters of the expansion said they were relieved by the decision.
“We look forward to seeing the rapid state-implemented Medicaid expansion so that all eligible Missourians have access to the health care they need,” read a statement from the Healthcare for Missouri group. “It’s not a partisan issue or a political issue – it’s a people issue.”
Missouri’s Medicaid program currently does not cover most adults without children, and its income threshold for parents is one of the lowest in the country, at about a fifth of the poverty level. The expansion is expected to add Medicaid eligibility for up to 275,000 low-income Missourians.
Voters approved the Medicaid expansion last August, passing a constitutional amendment by 53% of the vote.