Medicaid Expansion Gains Momentum in Missouri Statehouse

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JEFFERSON CITY - While Republican lawmakers appear to be warming up to the idea of expanding Medicaid, Gov. Jay Nixon signaled Wednesday he too is open to compromise.

The issue of Medicaid expansion has dominated the statehouse this session with Republicans largely against expanding the program to the level set by the federal government.

Earlier this session, Republicans defeated two separate Democratic-sponsored Medicaid bills that would expand eligibility to those with incomes below 138 percent of the poverty line. 

Wednesday night, a House panel backed the plan put forth by Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City.

It would set eligibility at 100% below the federal poverty line, while removing thousands of children from the program.

Following a closed-door meeting with House Republicans, Gov. Jay Nixon indicated to reporters he wouldn't necessarily veto a proposal expanding eligibility to less than what's called for by the federal government.

"I'd hate to come out of a productive meeting and use any words that start with ‘V,'" Nixon said.

If state lawmakers don't expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent below the federal poverty line, they run the risk of losing out on full federal funding.

"Secretary Sibelius was very clear. The Medicaid piece has to get you to 138. How you get there and the market based reforms that get you there, I think is a good area for discussion," Nixon said.

"We're putting the pressure on the Obama administration that if that if they don't cooperate we're not going to do it," Barnes said. 

A 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act made it optional for states to take part in Medicaid expansion.

The state's current program provides care to 880,000 individuals with 19% of Missourians below the federal poverty line eligible.