Judge Orders Missouri Medicaid Expansion to Move Forward, Governor Says Stay Will Comply

Missouri Republican Governor Mike Parson must provide Medicaid health care to thousands more newly eligible adults, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Cole County Judge Jon Beetem ordered Parson's administration to furnish the coverage to newly eligible adults, despite the governor's defiance in doing so. The new participants will not incur any additional restrictions to get health care coverage through the program.

Parson's spokeswoman, Kelli Jones, in an email said the administration will "follow the law and will continue to look at how to operationalize the court's order."

The decision is a major victory for advocates of Medicaid expansion under the terms of the 2010 federal health care law signed by President Barack Obama. Voters in Missouri last year also approved a state constitutional amendment that expands access to the government health care program to roughly 275,000 more low-income adults, which Parson refused to implement because the GOP-led legislature didn't allocate money for it.

MI Gov. Mike Parsons
Missouri Republican Governor Mike Parson must provide Medicaid health care to thousands more newly eligible adults, a judge ruled Tuesday. Here Parson (L) and Negro Leagues Museum President Bob Kendrick talk after signing a bill ahead of the game between the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on May 22, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri.. Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Three women who were newly eligible for Medicaid sued to force Parson's administration to give them health care access. They were vindicated last month when the Missouri Supreme Court found the voter-approved Medicaid expansion program constitutional and told the lower court to rule in their favor.

"With today's court order, Medicaid eligibility is finally expanded in Missouri, as its voters mandated and its people deserve," Democratic House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said in a statement. "There can be no more excuses and no more delays in implementation."

It remains unclear how the state will pay for health care for the newly eligible recipients. The Legislature may have to hold a special session to set aside more money for Medicaid. Otherwise, the state risks running out of funding for the program.

"We will continue to work with the Department of Social Services and the General Assembly to chart a path forward to enroll the expanded population and keep the MO HealthNet program solvent," Jones said.