A judge in mid-Missouri’s Cole County expects to issue his decision in Missouri’s Medicaid expansion lawsuit by Wednesday.

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem views a slide presentation from attorney Chuck Hatfield during a June 21st hearing in Jefferson City on Missouri’s Medicaid expansion lawsuit (photo courtesy of News-Tribune pool photographer Julie Smith)

Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem heard about 75 minutes of arguments on Monday afternoon, before a packed courtroom in Jefferson City. Reporters from across the state filled the entire jury box.

Three Missouri women are suing the state over the issue of Medicaid expansion. They note 53 percent of Missouri voters approved Amendment Two in August. Their attorney, Chuck Hatfield, told Cole County Judge Beetem that Missouri lawmakers approved funding for Medicaid expansion.

Hatfield is asking the judge to issue an injunction that would allow his three clients and others like them to be enrolled in Medicaid on July 1. Hatfield says there is no expansion population, and that there was an August election where Missourians voted to amend the Constitution.

“The plaintiff’s issue is that the Constitution guarantees them the right to receive Medicaid, and there is money that’s been appropriated to pay for Medicaid services. And, you know, once that’s done, those folks who are eligible under the Constitution are entitled to those services,” Hatfield says.

State Solicitor General D. John Sauer says Missouri lawmakers voted against Medicaid expansion four times this session. He says the Legislature only appropriated funding this year for the pre-existing Medicaid population. Sauer also says it would take three appropriations bills to approve Medicaid expansion, including money for the Office of Administration (OA) budget.

Medicaid is a federal and state program that assists with medical costs for residents with limited incomes. Hatfield tells Missourinet he disagrees with Counselor Sauer.

“Our presentation today was to look at the plain text of what happened and make a decision that under the law, they’re (the three plaintiffs) are entitled to Medicaid services,” says Hatfield.

Hatfield also notes that the Missouri Supreme Court issued a 2020 ruling involving Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis region, ruling that any attempt to use an appropriation bill to amend general laws violates the state Constitution. Hatfield also says the August election result can only be changed by statute or by another constitutional amendment, similar to what happened after the “Clean Missouri” vote.

Whichever side loses in Cole County Circuit Court will appeal, and Hatfield tells Capitol reporters he thinks it will go to the Court of Appeals next. He says there’s no automatic appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court.

The three women, Stephanie Doyle of St. Louis, Melinda Hille of Fenton and Autumn Stultz of Springfield, want the state Department of Social Services (DSS) to allow them to enroll and receive the same Medicaid coverage as those who currently receive it.

Attorney Joel Ferber of Legal Services of Eastern Missouri says none of the three women were in court on Monday. He says they have a variety of health conditions, including diabetes and severe skin conditions. He says they are struggling.

The Missouri Legislature gave final approval in May to a $35 billion state operating budget. House Budget Committee Chairman Cody Smith (R-Carthage) and other GOP lawmakers say the Amendment Two ballot measure did not contain a funding source, making it unconstitutional.

Legislative supporters of Medicaid expansion say it would help the working poor across the state. They say Amendment Two would provide healthcare to Missourians who earn less than $18,000 annually.

While it passed statewide with 53 percent of the vote, Amendment Two failed in 107 of Missouri’s 114 counties. The opposition to Medicaid expansion has primarily come from rural lawmakers in districts that voted against Medicaid expansion.

State Rep. Bruce DeGroot (R-Chesterfield) was in Judge Beetem’s courtroom on Monday, observing the arguments. DSS Director Jennifer Tidball also watched the proceedings.

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