The Missouri Supreme Court has vacated a lower court’s decision in the state’s Medicaid expansion case, agreeing that the voter-approved plan to offer Medicaid to more people should stand.
The unanimous decision on Thursday sends the case back to Cole County Circuit Court.
The state Supreme Court ruled that the 2020 ballot measure approving expansion of the government-operated health care plan did not violate the Missouri Constitution because it “does not appropriate money and does not remove the General Assembly’s discretion in appropriating money to MO HealthNet.”
Last month, a Cole County judge overturned the constitutional amendment that Republican Gov. Mike Parson had refused to implement after the GOP-led legislature didn’t provide any funding.
Attorney Chuck Hatfield argued before the court on behalf of the three women who sued when Parson announced the state would not open enrollment for expansion.
The case goes back to the Cole County Circuit Court to decided if people can enroll in Medicaid regardless of whether the cost was in the budget.
Coalition groups such as Missouri Budget Project are glad that citizens will be able to have Medicaid available for them.
"No other state that has expanded has had to raise taxes or cut other services in order to pay for it because of the combination of federal funds that come into the state and the fact that expansion will pay for services that were actually already paid for using more state funds," said Traci Gleason of the Missouri Budget Program.
Thomas Bennett, an associate professor of law at MU, said this means more people will possibly be able to sign up for the program.
"It's a big win for everybody who's newly able to enroll in Medicaid," Bennet said.
Bennet says it is unlikely for the case to move to the Supreme Court.
"The Supreme Court of the United States really only hears cases that touch upon or concern, federal law. This case from the outset has been exclusively about Missouri law," Bennet said. "As far as Missouri law is concerned, the Missouri Supreme Court is the last word and they have spoken. That is now the law."
Bennet says this ruling could help provide health insurance for about 275,000 people.
The Associated Press and KOMU 8 News reporters Kathryn Merck and Noah Klein contributed to this report.