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Missouri governor drops voter-approved Medicaid expansion

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Gov. Mike Parson dropped plans Thursday to expand the state’s Medicaid health care program to thousands of low-income adults after the Republican-led Legislature refused to provide funding for the voter-approved measure.

The Republican governor said his administration had withdrawn a request to expand coverage that had been submitted to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in compliance with a constitutional amendment passed by voters last November.

He noted that the state’s $35 billion budget approved by lawmakers last week didn’t provide the funding he had requested for an expansion of Medicaid, which is known is Missouri as MO HealthNet.

“Without a revenue source or funding authority from the General Assembly, we are unable to proceed with the expansion at this time and must withdraw our State Plan Amendments to ensure Missouri’s existing MO HealthNet program remains solvent,” Parson said Thursday.

The decision is likely to trigger a lawsuit from supporters of Medicaid expansion.

The Missouri ballot measure said people ages 19-65 earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level — less than $17,774 annually for an individual or less than $37,570 for a family of four — “shall be eligible” and “shall receive coverage” for Medicaid benefits starting July 1. The amendment did not change existing eligibility standards for children and seniors, and it did not say how to pay for the expansion that is projected to cover a couple hundred thousand people.

Parson had opposed Medicaid expansion at the ballot box, but he said he would uphold the will of voters and so had included funding for it in the budget he proposed to lawmakers earlier this year.

David A. Lieb, The Associated Press