'Caving to the new authoritarian Republican regime': Governor gets slammed for thwarting the constitution

'Caving to the new authoritarian Republican regime': Governor gets slammed for thwarting the constitution

In 2020, 53% of Missouri voters approved a ballot measure that called for expanding eligibility for the state's Medicaid program, MO HealthNet, and putting that expansion into the state's constitution. The expansion would have gone into effect on July 1, increasing the number of Missouri residents eligible for Medicaid by an estimated 275,000. But on Thursday, Republican Gov. Mike Parson announced that Missouri is "unable to proceed with" the expansion "at this time" — and the Missouri Department of Social Services, according to Kansas City Star reporter Jeanne Kuang, has notified the federal government that the expansion is being dropped.

In an official statement, John Rizzo, Democratic minority leader in the Missouri State Senate, said, "The Constitution says Medicaid Expansion happens on July 1. There is more than enough money in the budget to implement expansion. This is the governor caving to the new authoritarian Republican regime that doesn't respect the outcome of elections. This governor is determined to block people's healthcare while violating his oath to uphold Missouri's constitution."

Crystal Quade, Democratic minority leader in the Missouri House of Representatives, was equally scathing in her official statement. Quade attacked the decision as "dishonorable" and said, "By backtracking on implementation of Medicaid expansion, Gov. Parson is breaking his promise to the people of this state and violating his oath to uphold the Missouri Constitution. Whatever reputation he once had for respecting the law is gone forever, and he is just another politician whose word can't be trusted."

Although Missouri's largest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City, have Democratic mayors, Missouri on the whole is a red state. Parson is a Republican, the GOP controls both houses of the Missouri State Legislature, and both of Missouri's U.S. senators are Republicans: Sen. Roy Blunt and Sen. Josh Hawley. Although President Joe Biden enjoyed a decisive victory over former President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, it wasn't because of Missouri — where Trump won by 15%. Texas, in fact, was better for Biden than Missouri; Biden only lost by 6% in the Lone Star State.

Yet despite Missouri's Republican leanings, its Medicaid expansion ballot initiative was approved in 2020.

According to Kuang, "Parson had been opposed to the expansion but agreed to implement the will of the voters this year, asking for $130 million in state funds to pay for it. That would come with $1.6 billion from the federal government for the bulk of the expansion costs. Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government picks up 90% of the tab."

But now, Parson is saying that MO HealthNet will run out of money if the Medicaid expansion goes forward.

Kuang observes, "MO HealthNet has one of the nation's strictest eligibility rules. It does not cover most non-disabled adults without children. Parents can qualify if their household income is no more 21% of the federal poverty level…. Expansion would allow Missourians making up to 138% of the federal poverty level — or a little under $18,000 a year — to enroll."

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