Missouri Gov. Mike Parson on Tuesday said he’s moving up the date that voters will decide whether to expand Medicaid health care coverage to thousands more low-income adults in the state.
Missouri ballot initiatives automatically go on the November general election ballot unless the governor acts otherwise.
Parson said he put the measure on the Aug. 4 primary ballot instead because the state needs as much time as possible to financially prepare if the measure is approved.
“Pass or fail, it is important that we understand the implications of what would be a new spending bill out of our already depleted general revenue,” Parson said.
The coronavirus has lead to a massive drop in the state’s revenue collections.
Later Tuesday, the director of Americans for Prosperity-Missouri said he had filed a lawsuit in state court alleging the initiative violates the state constitution because it would effectively require the appropriation of state funds without including a funding source. The lawsuit by Jeremy Cady seeks to prevent the measure from appearing on the ballot.
Missouri’s Medicaid program currently does not cover most adults without children, and it’s income eligibility threshold for parents is one of the lowest in the nation at about one-fifth of the poverty level.
The ballot proposal would expand eligibility under the terms of the 2010 federal health care law signed by President Barack Obama. That law provides a higher-than-usual federal funding share for states that expand Medicaid coverage to adults earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level, about $17,600 for an individual or $30,000 for a family of three.
Thirty-six states have adopted Medicaid expansion measures.
Supporters estimate 230,000 additional adults would enroll in Missouri’s Medicaid program, if voters approve the expansion.
Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature had repeatedly rejected Medicaid expansion proposals over the past decade, which prompted supporters to turn to the initiative process. By proposing a constitutional amendment instead of a new law, supporters have ensured that lawmakers will be unable to change it without going back to voters.
Parson, a Republican, opposes Medicaid expansion and is running to keep his seat as governor this fall.
Democratic gubernatorial challenger Nicole Galloway’s campaign manager, Chris Sloan, in a statement said Parson was putting the measure on the August ballot because “he hopes that a smaller electorate will give him a better chance of misleading the voters and defeating it.”
“Now more than ever Missouri needs healthcare, but Governor Parson put his own political needs ahead of hundreds of thousands of working Missourians,” Galloway said in a statement.
Parson said his decision was “about policy, not politics.”