Republican legislators in Missouri have blocked a bill that would fund a voter-approved expansion of Medicaid.
State voters approved the expansion in August by a margin of 53.2 to 46.7 percent. The vote added an amendment to the state constitution making Medicaid available to people between the ages of 19 and 65 as long as their income is at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The expansion would cover an estimated 230,000 individuals and has a July 1 deadline for implementation.
The state House bill, rejected by Republicans, proposed paying for the expansion with $130 million in state funds and $1.6 billion in federal funds. However, 20 Republican legislators in the House Budget Committee opposed it as too costly. Comparatively, nine committee Democrats voted for it.
One legislator said she opposed the bill because only one in three rural voters supported the bill.
Urban and suburban voters largely approved the Medicaid expansion. Nearly a third of the rural voters approved the expansion as well. Without the roughly 102,000 rural voters who supported the amendment in August 2020, it would’ve failed.
“Rural Missouri said no,” Republican state Representative Sara Walsh said.”I don’t believe it is the will of the people to bankrupt our state.”
Democratic supporters have argued that the expansion can be funded through the state’s higher-than-expected revenues. They’ve also pointed out that the COVID-19 relief bill recently signed into law by Democratic President Joe Biden contains $1.1 billion in funding specifically allocated towards expanding Medicaid.
The federal funds could also help the state’s rural hospitals and healthcare industry, Democrats added.
If the legislature doesn’t fund the expansion, it could set up a potential legal battle. Citizens affected by the lack of an expansion could accuse the state of violating its own newly added constitutional amendment.