EDITORIAL: A just outcome in state trial will expand Medicaid

·2 min read

Jun. 18—A trial about Medicaid expansion in Missouri that was originally set to begin on Friday has been postponed until Monday, but any reasonable and just outcome should be the same: Medicaid coverage should begin on July 1 for all who are eligible.

And by that, we mean to include the estimated 275,000 Missourians who are newly eligible for Medicaid under Amendment 2, which directed the expansion of the health care program and was approved by voters in August 2020.

We all remember what happened after the vote of the people. Gov. Mike Parson requested $1.9 billion, including about $130 million of general revenue, to cover the cost of providing coverage. Lawmakers didn't include the funding in the budget they submitted for approval. The governor withdrew the state's plans for expansion. Several individuals who would be eligible for Medicaid under the expansion sued the state.

The lawsuit that will head to trial next week argues there is no legal reason to treat people who become eligible July 1 differently from those who are currently eligible, according to a recent story from the Missouri Independent. The state is arguing that funding the expansion program was optional for lawmakers and without the funding Parson requested, the state is not obligated to provide the coverage.

As this board has stated here before, we disagree that the state can shirk this obligation. Voters made their voice perfectly clear: expand Medicaid. It's the right thing to do, not only because it's the will of the people, but also because it makes good economic sense. People who have access to health care are more productive workers and members of society, and that benefits all of us.

Taxpayers in the state, a majority of whom already said they want Medicaid expansion because they voted in favor of it, should never have been made to foot this bill because this never should have gotten to the point where a lawsuit was needed.

To save time, money and headaches, this trial should come to a speedy conclusion. The only right verdict will be the expansion of, and the paying for, the Medicaid program when July begins.

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