(Missouri Independent) – A trial to determine whether Missouri must expand Medicaid coverage as mandated by a 2020 initiative will take place Friday as scheduled, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled Tuesday.
The ruling against adding new plaintiffs to the case came a day after Beetem heard arguments over whether two people who would become eligible for Medicaid on July 1 should be allowed to intervene. In the order distributed to attorneys Tuesday morning, Beetem wrote that the interests of the intervenors “will be adequately represented by the (original) Plaintiffs.”
With the July 1 implementation date looming, “the delays inherent in adding another party will prejudice the original parties,” Beetem wrote.
Under the terms of Amendment 2 passed in August 2020, Missourians aged 19 to 64 would be eligible for health coverage under Medicaid if their incomes are below 138 percent of the federal poverty guideline. But lawmakers rejected the proposed $1.9 billion to pay the costs of coverage and Gov. Mike Parson withdrew state plan amendments detailing services that would be provided.
Approximately 275,000 people would be eligible for coverage. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three people who would be eligible July 1 and seeks an order for the Department of Social Services to allow them to enroll and receive the same coverage as current program clients.
Attorney Paul Martin of St. Louis had sought to add two additional plaintiffs in order to make arguments that he believes are being missed by attorneys Chuck Hatfield and Lowell Pearson, who filed the original lawsuit.
The state is arguing that lawmakers had discretion in funding the expanded coverage because the Missouri Constitution prohibits initiatives that appropriate existing state funds. Hatfield and Pearson are arguing that while lawmakers have discretion over how much to spend on Medicaid, the expansion group is eligible for coverage as long as the state has a Medicaid program.
During the Monday hearing on the motion to intervene, Hatfield reminded Beetem that the goal is to get the case resolved before July 1. Adding parties could cloud the issues the courts must decide and create delays, he said.
“We are still hoping to get a trip to the Court of Appeals to hopefully get all this decided by July 1,” Hatfield told Beetem.
(The Cole County Courthouse in Jefferson City (Photo by Tessa Weinberg-Missouri Independent))