Medicaid expansion lawsuit goes to trial in June, outcome affecting thousands of Missourians

Ozarks Politics

JEFFERSON CITY, MO. — Three single moms are suing the state of Missouri after the governor decided not to expand Medicaid, but the lawsuit could impact thousands of Missourians.

After the General Assembly voted not to fund Medicaid expansion earlier this month, Gov. Mike Parson said there was no way the state could expand. In less than three weeks, the lawsuit will be in front of the judge who will rule if Missouri has to cover those making less than $18,000 a year.

Lowell Pearson is a public policy attorney in Jefferson City who has focused on Medicaid expansion for the past three years. He filed a lawsuit against the state, representing the three mothers.

“The trigger to this was the state withdrawing its state plan amendments,” Pearson said. “They [the three moms] fall into a gap in the system, really, they don’t make enough money to qualify for the old Medicaid program, but they are working people.”

One of the mothers is Stephanie Doyle, who has three children and makes $12 an hour working a full-time job. According to the lawsuit, Doyle suffers from severe eczema and needs two medications but cannot afford them without health coverage.

The lawsuit decision affects not only the three women but thousands of Missourians.

“What we’re seeking here is an order from the court that says the state has to enroll everybody eligible, so, this isn’t just about the three named plaintiffs, it’s about 275,000 other people as well,” Pearson said.

Last August, 53% of voters approved to expand Medicaid. In the budget request to lawmakers in January, Parson asked the General Assembly to fund expansion. It was expected to cost $1.9 billion, with less than $130 million coming from the state.

“Every other constitutional right, the government has an obligation to carry out its job to be sure that that right is enforced,” Pearson said.

He said the lawsuit does not order the General Assembly to come back and fund expansion, just move to allow those eligible under the new requirements into the program.

“Whether the money runs out during the course of the fiscal year is something to be addressed down the road, but right now, what we want the court to do is to enroll these people and give them the benefits that the constitution says they’re entitled too,” Pearson said.

Some lawmakers previously said the ballot question was invalid since it didn’t have a funding mechanism.

“I don’t think that argument holds water,” Pearson said. “There’s absolutely no requirement in the law that a funding mechanism is included.”

The trial is set for June 18 at the Cole County Courthouse in Jefferson City.

“There will be a trial, although I don’t expect it to look like a conventional trial on tv,” Pearson said. “I don’t think there will be any witnesses called. Really it will be the lawyers telling the judge why they should win based on those facts.”

Pearson expects a ruling before July 1 but believes the state will file an appeal. Jefferson City attorney Chuck Hatfield joins Pearson in the lawsuit against the state. Circuit Judge Jon Beetem is presiding over the case.

The governor’s office said Parson does not comment on pending litigation.

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