Missouri governor defies voters and cancels Medicaid expansion

Jefferson City, Missouri – Missouri Governor Mike Parson says the state will no longer implement a Medicaid expansion approved by its own voters.

Families of three in Missouri must make less than 21% of the federal poverty level to qualify for Medicaid (stock image).
Families of three in Missouri must make less than 21% of the federal poverty level to qualify for Medicaid (stock image).  © 123RF/Vitaliy Vodolazskyy

According to NPR, the Republican governor is refusing to follow through on the results of a 2020 vote, in which 53% of Missourians approved a ballot measure that would raise the Medicaid qualification limit to 138% of the federal poverty level.

Medicaid is a national program providing health care to low-income Americans, but it is managed by the states within federal guidelines.

Currently, Missouri has one of the strictest Medicaid policies in the nation. Qualified families of three must earn less than 21% of the federal poverty level. That means they must make $5,400 or less per year – no, that's not a typo!

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Adults without children are barred from the program entirely.

Under the approved ballot measure, single adults making $17,774 per year or families of four making $37,570 would qualify.

The raised limits, set to take effect on July 1, were expected to open Medicaid to around 271,500 Missourians.

Governor walks back on his promise

Missouri Governor Mike Parson has refused to implement a voter-approved Medicaid eligibility raise.
Missouri Governor Mike Parson has refused to implement a voter-approved Medicaid eligibility raise.  © IMAGO / UPI Photo

But that was before Parson stepped in to say the state government wouldn't be following through on the raise after all.

"Although I was never in support of MO HealthNet expansion, I always said that I would uphold the ballot amendment if it passed. However, without a revenue source or funding authority from the General Assembly, we are unable to proceed with the expansion at this time and must withdraw our state plan amendments to ensure Missouri's existing MO HealthNet program remains solvent," Parson said.

The governor's claims that the state couldn't raise enough revenue to cover the expansion seem highly questionable, considering the federal government is responsible for covering 90% of expanded eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. With the American Rescue Plan, states like Missouri would have access to an additional 5% of funding from the US government. The state already has a $1.1 billion surplus in its budget.

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The governor's decision is likely to be challenged in court, but a positive verdict may come too late for some. "Cancer patients cannot wait for legal battles to access the life-saving coverage that Medicaid expansion provides," a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society explained.

Missouri was also one of the states that has said it will impose an early end to federal pandemic-related unemployment benefits extended through the American Rescue Plan.

Cover photo: IMAGO / UPI Photo

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