Missouri’s Solicitor General says the state Department of Social Services (DSS) needs two months to implement voter-approved Medicaid expansion.
D. John Sauer made his comments Friday afternoon to Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem, saying DSS needs more employees and computer upgrades for implementation. Attorney Chuck Hatfield, who represents the three low-income women suing Missouri, disagrees.
“They believe that they need another two months, and I’m not sure I said it this way in there (Cole County Circuit Court), we don’t think they’re (the state) entitled to another two months of not complying with the law. They need to comply with the law now,” Hatfield told Capitol reporters Friday, outside the Cole County Courthouse.
Counselor Hatfield wants the judge to issue a final order quickly.
“What we asked the court to do today is to say that the state may not deny applications of folks who are eligible for Medicaid, under the (Missouri) Supreme Court’s decision. And the Supreme Court pretty clearly said that the provisions of the (state) Constitution that expanded Medicaid are valid and now in effect,” Hatfield says.
The Missouri Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision on July 22, ruling that Missouri’s Medicaid expansion ballot measure was constitutional. The court sent the case back to Judge Beetem for him to enter a judgment for Hatfield’s three clients. Hatfield expects a ruling within a few business days.
Hatfield’s three clients are Stephanie Doyle of St. Louis, Melinda Hille of Fenton and Springfield’s Autumn Stultz. They suffer from diabetes and various skin conditions. Hatfield tells Capitol reporters that his clients “don’t care about computers. Do it (process applications) by paper if you need to. They want their health care.”
Hatfield also notes that Governor Mike Parson (R) called for implementation of Medicaid expansion during his January State of the State address, and says it was six weeks away from implementation in May. That’s when the GOP-controlled Legislature decided not to fund the expansion.
53 percent of Missouri voters approved Medicaid expansion in August 2020. However, it failed in 107 of Missouri’s 114 counties. The opposition to Medicaid expansion this year primarily came from rural GOP lawmakers who represent those districts. They say Missouri cannot afford Medicaid expansion.
While Hatfield wants the judge to issue a final order quickly, Solicitor General Sauer is requesting another hearing in Cole County Circuit Court to give a Missouri Medicaid representative an opportunity to testify on DSS’ needs. Sauer also says a representative from DSS’s Family Support Division should testify.
Medicaid is a federal and state program that assists with medical costs for residents with limited incomes. Medicaid expansion supporters say it would help the working poor across the state. They say it will provide healthcare to Missourians who earn less than $18,000 annually.
DSS statistics show that 1,089,379 Missourians are currently receiving Medicaid benefits. That number has increased for 11 straight months.
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