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Missouri residents anxiously await Medicaid expansion lawsuit

Missouri lawmakers pass big tax changes at end of session
Posted at 3:51 PM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-17 19:14:37-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many Missouri residents are closely watching the lawsuit surrounding Missouri Medicaid Expansion.

The voter-approved constitutional amendment will go to trial in Cole County, Missouri. It was scheduled for Friday, June 18, but was pushed back due to the new Juneteenth holiday.

Three Missourians filed suit in May to order the Department of Social Services to allow newly eligible residents to receive coverage beginning July 1.

41 Action News talked with several eligible Missourians who said they do not have a back-up plan when it comes to coverage, if medicaid expansion does not move forward.

"In an ideal world, I would like to see Medicaid expansion enacted and funded on July 1, when voters voted for it to be enacted," Alice Nelms said.

According to Nelms, the cost of healthcare is impossible for her to afford. She's currently working as a temporary worker, but as soon as her job ends in July, she will no longer receive benefits.

"It has me feeling extremely frustrated and angry because we're asking for basic healthcare," Nelms said.

After voters approved Medicaid expansion in Aug. 2020, the State General Assembly did not include the funding in the state's budget. Following that decision, three Missouri residents filed a lawsuit against the state to push the expansion forward.

"Missourians voted this into the constitution and we have a constitutional right to be covered under Medicaid expansion if we're eligible, based on the expansion guidelines," Nelms said.

Many people will be left without healthcare until the matter is settled in court.

Nina Canaleo told 41 Action News she has multiple sclerosis, works part-time and would qualify for the healthcare in Missouri's potential expansion.

"So now I work at a grocery store and it's just part time and I have no benefits," Canaleo said. "I only make about $16,000 a year, maybe with my new raise, if that."

Under the provisions, more than 200,000 Missourians would qualify for coverage.

That includes people ages 19-64 with an income level at or below 133% of the federal poverty level. That's around $17,000 for a single person, or around $35,000 for a family of four.

"I've worked through the entire pandemic. I cleaned public toilets and in a grocery store. It's kind of a risky job, so I was like, I need to educate myself on how I can keep myself safe since I don't have insurance," Canaleo said.

Currently, Medicaid eligibility is set forth in state statute, but the amendment adds Medicaid expansion to the constitution.