Two more Missourians suing Parson administration to force Medicaid expansion

·2 min read

Two more Missourians are suing Gov. Mike Parson’s administration over its cancellation of a voter-approved plan to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Luke Barber and Christine Chaney, two low-income St. Louis-area residents, are seeking to join the original lawsuit filed last month against the state’s social services director, Jennifer Tidball, and acting director of the state’s Medicaid program, Kirk Mathews.

The first lawsuit is scheduled for a June 18 hearing.

If a Cole County judge rules in favor of the expansion, the state will likely run out of money for the Medicaid program partway through the fiscal year. It would force Parson to ask for more from a legislature that has staunchly opposed the plan.

Like the three Missourians who sued last month, Barber and Chaney are eligible for Medicaid under the expansion that was to start July 1, according to a constitutional amendment voters passed last August.

But the Republican-dominated state legislature repeatedly rejected the $130 million in state funds that Parson requested to pay for an estimated 275,000 new enrollees to the health program. It would have come with about $1.6 billion under the Affordable Care Act, which authorizes the federal government to pick up the vast majority of expansion costs.

Despite sure signs of a lawsuit, Parson announced last month the state was nixing expansion plans without the additional money.

Missouri currently has one of the nation’s strictest Medicaid eligibility criteria. Most adults without children do not qualify, and parents can only enroll if their household income is less than 22% of the federal poverty level — $5,830 for a family of four in 2021.

Barber, 26, has autism spectrum disorder and makes $16,000 a year, according to the court filing. Chaney, 43, has depression and makes $15,000 a year.

The expansion allows single adults earning up to $17,664 a year to enroll in Medicaid.

They make claims similar to those of the original plaintiffs — that Missouri officials are denying them Medicaid coverage in violation of the state constitution — and asking a court to force expansion to go forward. They contend that the Parson administration deprived them of due process rights under federal law when it withdrew its expansion plan without notice or seeking public input.

The administration filed paperwork with the federal government to expand eligibility and submitted the proposed changes through the state’s administrative rule-making process, before the expansion was canceled.

Barber and Chaney also argue the state is violating their rights to equal protection by singling out newly eligible Missourians and denying them coverage while other residents who are eligible for Medicaid can continue to be enrolled.

“Both the existing and the expanded Medicaid plan are mandated by law,” their attorneys wrote. “All qualifying individuals are entitled to Medicaid coverage.”

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