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Judge considers next step in Medicaid expansion lawsuit

Cole County Courthouse
KMIZ
Cole County Courthouse

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

A Cole County judge will consider what exactly he'll order the state of Missouri to do next in expanding eligibility to the state's Medicaid program.

Judge Jon Beetem heard 20 minutes of argument between the two sides fighting over the future of the health insurance program. Attorneys for those that sued the state see it as simple order of allowing people newly qualified under a voter-approved amendment to apply, while the Missouri Attorney General's Office said it will need some time to begin accepting them.

The Supreme Court of Missouri sided with those suing the state last month. The court overruled Beetem's earlier judgment. He said the constitutional amendment voters passed in August 2020 conflicted with rules requiring new programs have a funding source. The Supreme Court unanimously reversed that, saying the state legislature's funding of Medicaid did not exclude money for the newly eligible.

Attorney Chuck Hatfield said both sides had a "fundamental disagreement" on what comes next. He said the Supreme Court made its mandate simple - order the state to begin accepting people now qualified. He said he did not want the court to get into the business of running Medicaid, and instead leave it to the state to implement it.

Solicitor General John Sauer said he wanted a hearing to present evidence on why the state could not immediately begin accepting newly qualified people into the program. That included bringing two witnesses from the state government to testify. Sauer said it could take the state weeks to be ready to accept the new population, which some estimate to be 275,000 more people.

Hatfield said both sides could come back to court if the state had issues getting the program running in time.

"What we don't want to happen is we don't want people to apply for Medicaid today, get denied, and then have to go back and apply again later," Hatfield said. "The Supreme Court has said they're eligible."

Beetem did not give a timetable on when he might make his order.

Article Topic Follows: News

Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors the 5 p.m. show for ABC 17 News and reports on the latest news around mid-Missouri at 9 and 10 p.m.

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