Judge rules Missouri is not required to expand Medicaid; appeal coming
A judge ruled that Missouri was not required to expand its Medicaid program by July 1 under a constitutional amendment approved by voters last year, siding with the state in a decision that will be appealed.
Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem made his decision on the basis of state funding, writing that Amendment 2 affects the legislature's control over appropriations and is thus a violation of the Missouri Constitution.
"If the Court allows (the people of Missouri) to spend other state revenues by initiative, it would deprive the General Assembly of its constitutional right" to assign funding in all other circumstances, Beetem wrote.
The ruling means that for now, the roughly 275,000 Missourians who would qualify for Medicaid benefits under the amendment will not be enrolled beginning July 1.
Attorneys Chuck Hatfield and Lowell Pearson, representing three women suing the state in the case, said in a statement they are immediately appealing the decision to the Court of Appeals for the Western District of Missouri.
"As all observers predicted, the issues around Medicaid Expansion will be decided in the Court of Appeals," they wrote. "We are disappointed in today's ruling but believe the Court of Appeals will disagree."
They also took issue with the court's analysis that Amendment 2 was not validly enacted, which they said "is not an issue the State raised or argued at trial." Hatfield and Pearson said they believed precedent on the issue had been set in an earlier case and the amendment was valid.
Amendment 2, which was approved by 53 percent of voters in August 2020, expanded the state's MO HealthNet program. Under expansion, those ages 19-65 earning less than $17,774 for individuals and $37,570 for four-person families would be eligible for coverage.
Galen Bacharier covers Missouri politics and government for the News-Leader. Contact him at email@example.com, (573) 219-7440 or on Twitter @galenbacharier.