GOP lawmakers block Missouri Medicaid expansion plan again, this time in Senate
JEFFERSON CITY — Republican lawmakers shot down another plan to fund voter-approved Medicaid expansion late Wednesday, paving the way for a possible court fight in the months to come.
The latest result came in the Senate budget committee, where a proposal from Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, won support from two other Republicans and all four Democrats but failed on a tie vote.
The decision is not final and could technically be superseded when the budget comes before the full Senate, but the losses for the plan are piling up.
Back in August, roughly 53 percent of voters said “yes” to a constitutional amendment requiring the state to offer public health insurance to any lawful adult resident earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line — around $17,780 a year for individuals and $36,600 for a family of four. Current standards exclude most childless adults and cut most parents off at 21 percent of the poverty line.
But the Republicans who control the legislature have now said “no” three times — first in the House budget committee, then on the House floor and for a third time Thursday.
Hough tried to snap the losing streak with a plan that put less state money toward expansion than Gov. Mike Parson, another Republican, originally proposed in January.
He also noted that a deluge of federal pandemic aid would ease stress on the line item moving forward.
“I wouldn’t put this plan before the committee if I didn’t believe this was the right path to go down,” he said.
Democrats also chimed in with points about how expansion is expected to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of low-income Missourians and argued that the legislature should adhere to the “will of the people.”
Hough's plan was enough to bring over votes from Sen. Justin Brown, R-Rolla, and Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee's Summit, who noted that inaction could ultimately leave the decision up to a judge to make without any legislative direction.
The other seven Republicans were unmoved, though.
Like their counterparts in the House did last month, dissenters noted that while expansion won approval statewide, it did not clear a majority in most of their districts.
Hough's plan to spend less state money on expansion was also not enough to sway the likes of Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, who said he didn't support spending a single dollar on the idea.
The dissenting Republicans also repeated a familiar argument holding that the expansion amendment is not binding because the petitioners who put it on the ballot last year did not specify how to pay for it.
Whether that analysis is correct will almost certainly be the central question addressed in court, if it comes to that.
The Senate committee continued work on other budget matters Thursday.
The state constitution requires the legislature to pass this year's budget by May 7.
Austin Huguelet is the News-Leader's politics reporter. Got something he should know? Have a question? Call him at 417-403-8096 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.