Jefferson City's irresponsible foot dragging
The state of Missouri is just hell bent on finding ways to avoid doing the right thing.
Quick story: Obamacare was passed in 2010 and mainly took effect in 2014. It greatly reduced the number of people without health coverage. One aspect of it has been expanding Medicaid to cover those in jobs that pay very little and have no health coverage.
But not in Missouri. Despite Washington picking up nearly all of the cost, despite the stability expanded Medicaid would provide for hospitals, despite the fact that this was working people getting back some of what they pay taxes for, Missouri legislators said no.
Year after year, not even an honest debate. They said no to the economic benefits. They said no to the moral argument. Obamacare includes the name Obama, and that was a big part their obstinance. That alone speaks volumes. Year after year, Missourians paid their federal taxes that helped pay for other states to expand Medicaid while their leaders refused to act here.
A year ago this month the voters passed Medicaid expansion on their own. Gov. Mike Parson said he disagreed with the policy but would abide by the will of the people. The people said yes, emphatically.
The governor plugged the federal money into the budget, but legislators this spring took it out. The governor caved.
This summer the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the voters said what they said and that it’s constitutional – and that the program must be made available to those who newly qualify.
This is about 270,000 Missourians. Let’s be clear: These are people making very little, about $18,000 a year, or less, for an individual.
Parson’s administration stalled more, but just this month a judge ruled that July 1 – the voters’ start date for expansion – had passed and the state needed to start providing benefits.
It's still not happening. The Department of Social Services is taking applications but says it won’t even begin determining anyone’s eligibility until Oct. 1.
What will the excuse be on Oct. 2?
This reveals Jefferson City’s contempt for the voters, contempt for proper procedure and, not least, contempt for those whose lives would at least be modestly improved by a service their fellow citizens say they need.
Missouri needs to do better. Is there any hope that it might? Is there anyone who will step up and lead in the right direction?