JEFFERSON CITY — The fight over Medicaid expansion in Missouri has moved from the state Capitol to the Cole County Courthouse.
A lawsuit filed Thursday in Cole County Circuit Court aims to require the state to expand its Medicaid program in accordance with the constitutional amendment 53% of voters supported last August.
Lawmakers left Jefferson City last week without funding the program, which would provide health care services to adults earning up to 138% of the federal poverty limit.
Opponents of the expansion in the Republican-dominated Legislature argued proponents should have included a funding mechanism in their ballot language.
The House and Senate didn’t include the funding, though Gov. Mike Parson’s proposed budget in January set aside $120 million for the expansion.
Because of the lack of funding, Parson’s administration has opted not move forward with the expansion.
“The agencies claim that they lack the authority to implement Medicaid Expansion because the General Assembly did not include a specific appropriations line item funding services for the newly eligible population,” the lawsuit argues. “This position has no merit.”
Amy Blouin, president and CEO of the left-leaning Missouri Budget Project, said in a statement the group was confident the courts will uphold the expansion.
“On July 1st, under Missouri’s Constitution, that eligibility will be expanded to childless adults with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level — which means that doctors’ visits, medications, and other services can and should be provided through MO HealthNet at that time,” she said.
Representatives for Parson and Attorney General Eric Schmitt, both Republicans, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed against the Department of Social Services on behalf of three Missourians who would become eligible for services on July 1 under the constitutional amendment.
It also follows comments by Michael Neidorff, the CEO of Clayton-based Centene, who threatened recently to leave Missouri over the state’s lack of Medicaid expansion.
Jefferson City attorneys Chuck Hatfield and Lowell Pearson filed the lawsuit.
One plaintiff, according to the lawsuit, is Stephanie Doyle, a single mother of three children who earns $12 per hour working full time. The lawsuit says she struggles with severe eczema and needs two medications for the ailment “but is unable to afford them without health coverage.”
A second plaintiff, Melinda Hille, is unable to work because of medical conditions and earns less than 100% of the federal poverty level, the lawsuit says.
She has Type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, pernicious anemia and a precancerous colon growth, the lawsuit says.
“Due to the cost of treatment for her medical conditions, Plaintiff Hille and her partner have to choose between Plaintiff’s treatments and purchasing food,” it says.
The third plaintiff, Autumn Stultz, is a single mother working a minimum-wage job full-time, the lawsuit says.
“Because she lacks comprehensive health coverage, Plaintiff Stultz cannot afford the cost of a doctor visit, leaving her chronic asthma untreated,” the lawsuit says. “Plaintiff Stultz also suffers from tonsil stones but cannot have them removed because she cannot afford the cost of the surgery and requisite hospital stay.”
A hearing in the case had not been scheduled as of Thursday.