Missouri judge rules state doesn’t have to expand Medicaid starting July 1

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COLE COUNTY, Mo. — Circuit Judge Jon Beetem has ruled that Missouri does not have to expand Medicaid starting July 1.

Three single mothers sued the state of Missouri after Gov. Mike Parson decided not to expand Medicaid. Last August, 53% of Missouri voters approved to expand Medicaid, covering those making less than $18,000 a year. 

But during the regular legislative session this year, the General Assembly voted not to fund the Medicaid expansion, so Parson said there was no way the state could expand.

“[The three moms] fall into a gap in the system, really,” attorney Lowell Pearson said when the suit was filed last month. “They don’t make enough money to qualify for the old Medicaid program, but they are working people.”

One of the mothers is Stephanie Doyle who has three children and makes $12 an hour working a full-time job. According to the lawsuit, Doyle suffers from severe eczema and needs two medications but cannot afford them without health coverage. 

But Beetem ruled Wednesday that Missouri will not be forced to cover residents like Doyle under Medicaid.

Pearson and fellow attorney Chuck Hatfield said shortly after the ruling they will “immediately appeal this decision” to the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District.

“As all observers predicted, the issues around Medicaid expansion will be decided in the Court of Appeals. We are disappointed in today’s ruling, but believe the Court of Appeals will disagree,” the attorneys said in a statement.

Wednesday’s ruling comes as Missouri is struggling with another, separate aspect of its Medicaid system.

On Tuesday, Gov. Mike Parson announced a special session, start Wednesday to renew the Federal Reimbursement Allowance that funds Missouri’s current Medicaid system.

Lawmakers could not reach a compromise on the FRA before they adjourned from the regular session. Parson has threatened major budget cuts if the General Assembly does not renew the important tax by July 1.

Parson said more than $700 million worth of budget cuts will come to higher education and even social services if something is not passed.

“After laying out the grim reality of our state’s financial future if FRA is not extended, I believe legislators have now agreed to a compromise that will end this stalemate, so today I am announcing a special session to begin tomorrow (Wednesday) at noon,” Parson previously said. “We appreciate the continued efforts of House and Senate leadership to work with us towards a solution, and we are thankful that we are now in a position that warrants a call to the special session.”

FRA is a program between Missouri hospitals and the government to support Medicaid; the tax brings in $1.6 billion for Medicaid.

The holdup for the General Assembly is if abortion providers and affiliates and certain contraceptives like Plan B should be covered for women who are already on Medicaid.

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