Jul 24, 2021 11:03 AM

Supreme Court upholds Medicaid expansion, sends lawmakers scrambling

Posted Jul 24, 2021 11:03 AM

By BRENT MARTIN

St. Joseph Post

A unanimous Missouri Supreme Court ruling upholds Medicaid expansion and rejects arguments by legislators that the voter-approved ballot issue violated the state constitution because it didn’t include a funding source.

State Sen. Dan Hegeman of Cosby, the Senate Appropriations Committee chair, says the unanimous ruling disappointed him.

“I truly felt like the initiative petition that passed last year basically did appropriate funds without a funding source behind it and that’s the way the circuit court saw it,” Hegeman tells St. Joseph Post. “The circuit court ruled it unconstitutional for that reason.”

But, the Supreme Court overruled the Cole County Circuit Court.

The Supreme Court ruled the ballot initiative constitutional, stating it doesn’t remove the legislature’s discretion in appropriating money to MO HealthNet.

The legislature refused to appropriate the $130 million in state General Revenue funding requested by Gov. Mike Parson to fund the $1.9 billion expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Under the ACA, the federal government funds 90% of Medicaid expansion. Voters last August approved expanding Medicaid to cover those earning less than 138% of the federal poverty level, approximately 275,000 Missouri residents.

Hegeman says he has been in talks with the Parson Administration as well as House leaders about what the next steps will be.

“A lot of it’s timing,” Hegeman says. “Do we need to have a special session to address this or do we wait until the regular session?  Do we appropriate enough funds to get us to the regular session? Questions like that are where we are right now.”

Hegeman says the state can afford its $130 million share, at present.

“Right now, the state has resources to be able to handle it, but what is going to be the long-term impact and how’s that going to affect not only this program, but other programs that are going to be diminished to fund this program?”

The Supreme Court unanimous decision Thursday sends the case back to Cole County Circuit Court. The state Supreme Court ruled that the 2020 ballot measure approving expansion of the government-operated health care plan did not violate the Missouri Constitution because it “does not appropriate money and does not remove the General Assembly’s discretion in appropriating money to MO HealthNet.”

Last month, a Cole County judge overturned the constitutional amendment that Republican Gov. Mike Parson had refused to implement after the Republican-led Legislature didn’t provide any funding.