State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge (D, 78th District) is demanding that Gov. Mike Parson call a special legislative session to provide funding to nearly 300,000 Missourians who are now covered under Medicaid.
Aldridge’s plea came in a letter to the governor following Cole County Circuit Court Judge Jon Beetem’s decision on Tuesday that the Missouri Department of Social Services must allow newly eligible residents that qualify for benefits under voter-approved Medicaid expansion to enroll and cannot impose greater restrictions on them.
“We have already put expansion off for too long, even before the drama of the last year. Medicaid expansion would have helped our state during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially benefitting people of color and Missourians who line in high poverty communities, by providing greater access to much needed medical care,” Aldridge wrote.
“You have the authority to ensure the General Assembly does not let this essential program go unfunded. I encourage you to use it.”
In his ruling, Beetem rejected the state’s request that it be allowed to make its case for why it needs two more months to begin accepting newly eligible residents.
State Sen. Karla May (D, 4th District) chastised Parson and the state for “numerous delays in implementing the will of the voters.”
“I am thankful the courts have finally put an end to these efforts once and for all. With this ruling, it is clear that now is time for the state to act and start allowing eligible Missourians to access the health care guaranteed to them under the Missouri Constitution.”
Attorney Chuck Hatfield, who represented plaintiffs challenging the state, said it’s time to stop talking about implementing Medicaid expansion and start doing it.
“It’s great that the courts have — today on the 200th anniversary of Missouri — enforced that will, and said, ‘Yeah, you actually have to do what the people voted for,'” Hatfield said. “That’s how this is supposed to work and it’s a good day.”
A spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt declined to comment on Tuesday’s ruling. The governor’s office and DSS did not immediately respond to requests for comment nor to Aldridge’s call for a special session.
“I haven’t seen the entire ruling but let me say this: I’m going to follow the law. I’ve always done that and always will continue to do that,” Gov. Mike Parson said Tuesday, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Last month, the Missouri Supreme Court overturned Beetem’s earlier ruling, unanimously ordering Missouri to expand Medicaid to the approximately 275,000 residents who became eligible when it would have gone into effect July 1.
By allocating funds for the Medicaid program, the state must allow all eligible to access those benefits — and cannot differentiate between eligible populations, like those who previously qualified versus those newly eligible.
Under the constitutional amendment passed last year, 19 to 64-year-old adults whose household incomes are 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline or less would qualify for benefits under Missouri’s Medicaid program.
That ends up being $17,774 a year for a single person, or $36,570 for a family of four.
Despite passing with 53.3 percent of the vote, lawmakers refused to appropriate the $1.9 billion in state and federal funds needed to finance Medicaid expansion. In May, the state ultimately withdrew a plan it had submitted to federal regulators as a result.
Part of plaintiffs’ request was that Beetem order the state to submit a new state plan amendment — which attorneys for the state indicated DSS plans to do and have apply retroactively to July 1, the date Medicaid expansion would have gone into effect.
Parson said his administration is making plans to move forward, in addition to preparing to resubmit a state plan amendment to the federal government — “but we really cannot until we find out: do we have the ability to do that,” Parson told St. Louis Public Radio’s “Politically Speaking” last week.
“What I really don’t want is some judge deciding for us how we’re going to implement this from an area he has no experience in,” Parson said. “And the other thing, if we do have to implement — if we do — I don’t want to be in a position where we lose the 90 percent match from the federal government. And that’s a reality.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, states pay 10 percent of the costs of newly eligible Medicaid participants, with the federal government matching the remaining 90 percent.
Shortly after Tuesday’s order was released, Missouri Jobs With Justice, an advocacy organization that was part of the coalition that campaigned for expansion’s passage, urged residents with questions on whether they qualify for coverage to call a hotline to get answers.