Missourians who qualify under the newly expanded Medicaid qualifications will have to wait almost a year to receive health care benefits.
Constitutional Amendment 2 was narrowly approved by Missouri voters during Tuesday’s primary elections by 53.3%.
When fully implemented, the state’s program will expand to cover single Missourians aged 19 to 65 with an income of about $18,000 a year or a family of three with an income of about $30,000. As part of expansion, the federal government will pick up 90% of the total costs for new Medicaid enrollees.
However, final implementation will take time and coverage is likely not to begin until July 1, 2021. Until then, Missouri’s Medicaid requirements remain unchanged said Rebecca Woelfel, a spokesperson for the Department of Social Services.
Gov. Mike Parson, who has opposed Medicaid expansion in the past, said during a press conference Wednesday that he plans to follow the will of Missouri voters despite the initiative’s price tag.
Amendment 2 is estimated to cost the state around $200 million in general revenue. However, proponents note that other states have saved money through increased economic activity and by offsetting costs Medicaid costs elsewhere.
“Hopefully, the economy gets better, and hopefully we can meet that financial obligation a little easier,” Parson said, “but right now, tough times.”
When he moved the vote for Medicaid expansion to the August primaries, he said it was so the state could know its budget situation sooner amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He said Wednesday that having people return to work is a positive sign for the economy, but much will depend on what happens toward the end of 2020.
Woelfel said that the department will begin to work with various state departments and budget leaders in the next several weeks to begin reviewing implementation options.
“As state leaders, our job is to carry out the will of the people, and the people have spoken on the issue of Medicaid expansion,” Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
“This expansion will be expensive, and it will force difficult funding decisions for the state in perpetuity, but I am committed to working with members of the legislature and the governor to minimize its impact on essential state services.”
Medicaid expansion supporters, however, are hesitant to believe Missouri’s Republican-led legislature will readily implement Amendment 2. In a statement, the Missouri Democratic Party said the battle likely isn’t over yet.
“From Clean Missouri to Right-to-Work, Republicans have tried to go against the will of the people and sabotage voter-passed initiatives. We need to work to elect Auditor (Nicole) Galloway as our next governor and Democratic legislators across our state to ensure the will of the people is actually implemented,” the statement said.