Missouri Supreme Court could decide to expand Medicaid benefits to include 275,000 more residents

Galen Bacharier
Springfield News-Leader
A sample version of the renewal notice sent to Missouri Medicaid recipients to verify their eligibility. The legal fight over expanding the state's low-income health care program will head to the Missouri Supreme Court on July 13.

JEFFERSON CITY — The legal effort to expand Missouri's Medicaid program will head directly to the state's highest court after being appealed.

An attorney representing three women suing the state to receive Medicaid benefits, Chuck Hatfield, wrote on Twitter Friday that the Missouri Supreme Court had scheduled arguments for the case on July 13 at 11 a.m. The hearing will come weeks after a circuit court judge ruled that the state was not required to expand Medicaid under a voter-approved constitutional amendment enacted last year.

Hatfield and Lowell Pearson, another attorney representing the women, said after the initial circuit court hearing they expected the case to be appealed all the way to the Missouri Supreme Court.

The July 13 hearing will be another crucial step in a high-stakes case — one that will eventually determine whether roughly 275,000 low-income Missourians are eligible to receive health care benefits and services. It will also review Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem's ruling that Amendment 2, approved by 53 percent of voters last year, was unconstitutional because it didn't designate funding for the program's expansion.

Background:Judge rules Missouri is not required to expand Medicaid; appeal coming

Background:Missouri Medicaid expansion legal battle begins

Beetem's ruling last week means that starting July 1, those who would have been eligible for the expanded Medicaid benefits are not able to enroll. A Supreme Court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, the three women suing the state, would likely force Missouri lawmakers to allocate funding for the expansion. 

The legislature, controlled by Republican supermajorities in both chambers, delivered an annual budget to Gov. Mike Parson earlier this year that didn't include funding for the program's expansion, prompting the lawsuit. Another ruling in favor of the state would effectively invalidate the amendment, and keep those who would have qualified under expansion off Medicaid.

Galen Bacharier covers Missouri politics & government for the News-Leader. Contact him at gbacharier@gannett.com, (573) 219-7440 or on Twitter @galenbacharier.