David A. Lieb / AP
On Thursday, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that an additional 275,000 low-income people in the state were again eligible for state-funded health care.
Missouri voters managed to get a state constitutional amendment passed last August to pass the Medicaid extension, but the Republican-dominated legislature refused to implement it, prompting Gov. Mike Parson , also a Republican, to end plans to strengthen the health care program.
(Thirty-eight states, including the Red states, have extended Medicaid or are in the process of expanding it.)
The question before the Missouri judges was whether the 2020 ballot required lawmakers to allocate money, which would have been a violation of state law. In a unanimous opinion, the state’s Supreme Court ruled that was not the case – that new Medicaid beneficiaries would join the existing pool of Medicaid beneficiaries in the state and that lawmakers would have to decide what to do when the current credit will be exhausted.
The decision does not mean that newly eligible Missourians can access benefits immediately. In May, Governor Mike Parson withdrew federal documents that set up the registration process. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lowell Pearson, one of the lawyers for three women seeking access to Medicaid, said the decision was a total victory for his clients. “On August 4 of last year, voters said ‘we want these people to get Medicaid,” Pearson said. “We are a big step forward in getting them to get it.”
The amendment, which passed with 53% of the vote, makes adults between the ages of 19 and 65 eligible for Medicaid if they earn 133% of the federal poverty level – or about $ 35,200 for a family of four. It also prohibits the state from enacting work requirements for Medicaid recipients. Currently, very few adults without dependents are eligible for Medicaid.
Amy Blouin, president of the Missouri Budget Project, which supports the expansion, said in a statement that she hopes the expansion will be implemented quickly.
“As a result of the Supreme Court ruling, Missourians statewide will finally be able to realize the health and economic benefits of the expansion of Medicaid,” she said.
“State after state has shown that in addition to providing insurance to eligible people, expansion is a fiscal and economic boon to state economies and budgets,” Blouin said.