JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri House approved the state’s budget, but without funding the voter-approved Medicaid expansion. Now it’s up to the Senate to put the money back into the budget.
Before lawmakers adjourned for Easter break, the House passed a nearly $35 billion budget, but the plans have no funding for Medicaid expansion. Missouri voters might remember the question to expand Medicaid on the August ballot.
House Democrats and even the governor are now depending on the Senate to fund the expansion that starts in July.
“I think that goes through the Senate process, and we’ll see what happens on that,” Gov. Mike Parson said during a press conference Thursday. “I’m not sure what the end game will be on that or what will go across the finish line, but we will see when that day comes.”
The measure was in limbo all week in the House.
“Missourians were told that they were going to have free health care. Missourians were told not only was it going to be free to the state, but it was going to save money to the state,” Rep. Justin Hill, R- Lake St. Louis, said.
Fifty-three percent of voters approved the measure in August, making Missouri the 37th state to expand Medicaid.
“Regardless or not whether you recognize the parts of your district that didn’t vote for you or didn’t vote for Medicaid expansion, statewide votes apply equally across the state of Missouri,” Rep. Keri Ingle, D-Lee’s Summit, said.
After hours of debate over multiple days, representatives failed to fund Medicaid expansion in the state’s $34.6 billion budget.
“The citizens told us what they wanted, the state constitution demands it,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said. “There’s billions of dollars sitting here for it, the only answer I can give you politics.”
Parson previously said he was against the expansion, but he funded it in the budget he proposed to the legislature.
“We have enough money to cover the people. We put that in the budget,” Parson said.
Originally, House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith, R-Carthage, said it would cost $1.6 billion to fund the expansion, but less than $130 million would come from state funds.
“We’re not going to throw out the neediest families of Missouri. We’re not going to make them wait in line so that able-bodied Missourians can have their free Medicaid,” Hill said. “This is the right thing to do.”
Now, Democrats say it’s up to the Senate to put the funding for expansion back into the budget.
“We’re hearing the Senators intend to put the money and fund Medicaid and listen to the constitution,” Quade said. “At the beginning, there were Republicans and Democrats saying, ‘We want this. This is smart,’ and over the course of time, it has become more and more partisan. Health care is no longer a thing that government should do. It’s now a thing that Democrats want.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said in a statement:
“Crafting a balanced state budget is a lengthy process that requires considerable attention to detail. The appropriations bills have only just arrived in the Senate and, until they reach the Senate floor, are the exclusive purview of the appropriations committee.
“I can’t speculate on where the members will ultimately land, but bills that happen to pass through both legislative chambers, especially budget bills, almost always include compromises necessitated by differences of opinion.”
Senate Minority Floor Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence, said in a statement:
“Last week, Republicans in the Senate passed an amendment putting Missouri’s existing Medicaid funding in jeopardy. If they’re willing to sabotage the Medicaid program we have, there’s no reason to think they’ll support its expansion for working families.
“Time will tell if eight reasonable Republicans can be found to work with the Democrats to save the voter-approved Medicaid expansion in the Senate.”
Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said Friday that Medicaid expansion should be funded.
“As for the constitutionally expanded Medicaid population, yes, I believe it should be funded,” Hough said.
The Senate could start discussing the budget as early as next week.
After Republicans on the budget committee failed to pass the legislation to fund the expansion last week, Smith filed another bill Friday, House Bill 21, to use the money for expansion and put it toward seniors in nursing homes, add public defenders to the criminal justice system and help K-12 school transportation.
“If he’s going to try and put the other things in House Bill 21 against Medicaid expansion, with these false narrative of it having to be one or the other, when the fact is the governor funded both and the fact is that Medicaid expansion would help us pay for all those other things,” Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis said.
Expanded eligibility goes into effect July 1 for those earning less than $17,600 for an individual or $30,000 for a family of three.