Missouri Supreme Court Sides with Voters, Rules Medicaid Expansion Should Go Forward

The Missouri Supreme Court sided with voters and ruled that the Missouri Medicaid expansion should go forward, the Associated Press reported.

The state Supreme Court took nine days to come to rule in support of the case, a month after a Cole County judge overturned the constitutional amendment that Republican Governor Mike Parson refused to implement after the GOP-led legislature didn't provide the funding.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three women, all newly eligible for Medicaid. Their attorney, Chuck Hatfield, told the state Supreme Court last week that the actions by the state would essentially "overturn the election."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Missouri Supreme Court Passes Medicaid Expansion
Missouri Governor Mike Parson opposed the expansion of Medicaid as the GOP-led legislation would not provide the funding for it. Above, Parson listens to a question during a news conference to discuss the status of license renewal for the St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility on May 29, 2019, in Jefferson City, Missouri. Jacob Moscovitch/Getty Images

The unanimous decision 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."

But Solicitor General John Sauer had urged for the Supreme Court to let the amendment stand and "preserve the Legislature's traditional authority" over the budget.

Messages left with Hatfield and the Missouri Attorney General's office were not immediately returned.

Advocates for the expansion said they were relieved by the ruling.

"We look forward to seeing Medicaid expansion swiftly implemented by the State so that all eligible Missourians receive the access to healthcare they need," read a statement from the group Healthcare for Missouri. "This is not a partisan issue or a political issue - it's a people issue."

Missouri's Medicaid program currently does not cover most adults without children, and its income eligibility threshold for parents is one of the lowest in the nation, at about one-fifth of the poverty level. The expansion is expected to add Medicaid eligibility for up to 275,000 low-income Missourians.

Voters approved Medicaid expansion last August, passing a constitutional amendment with 53 percent of the vote.

Missouri Supreme Court Supports Medicaid Expansion
The Missouri Supreme Court sided with voters in support of a Medicaid expansion. Above, the Guardian, or Authority of Law, created by sculptor James Earle Fraser, rests on the side of the U.S. Supreme Court on September 28, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Al Drago/Getty Images