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Missouri opens Medicaid to expansion population yet warns of 2 month delay

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Although it will accept those covered under the expanded Medicaid, state officials warned of insufficient funding and staffing, estimating a two-month delay while its systems are updated. 

Gov. Mike Parson said the state was working through several administrative barriers, including funding, staffing, and software changes, as it opens the MO HealthNet program to the expanded population. 

Attorneys for the state had asked a judge to allow it an additional two months to address the concerns last week, but he granted no such delay in ordering Missouri to begin accepting additional people covered by Medicaid expansion Tuesday. 

Parson said his proposed FY 22 budget included funding for the program as well as 75 additional employees to administer the expansion, but the legislature did not fund either proposal. 

A 60-day delay is expected while computer systems are updated to handle the expansion, with DSS employees from different divisions reassigned to process applications in the meantime, the Governor’s Office said Wednesday. 

“My administration is always going to follow the law, and yesterday’s court order is no exception,” Parson said. “The necessary funding to cover the health care costs of the expanded population remains the issue. We will continue to work with the General Assembly and DSS to chart a path forward to comply with the court order and keep the MO HealthNet program solvent.” 

Cole County Judge Jon Beetem ruled Tuesday DSS cannot deny individuals who qualify under the expansion from enrolling in the MO HealthNet program. Additionally, those people cannot be subject to any additional restrictions or burdens than those already placed on Medicaid recipients. 

Late last month, the Supreme Court of Missouri unanimously remanded the decision, saying the constitutional amendment expanding Medicaid did not appropriate money or hamper the legislature’s discretion in appropriating funds. The lawsuit brought against DSS, Acting Director Jennifer Tidball, and the MO HealthNet Division, among others, was filed in May on behalf of three single mothers who would be covered under the expansion. 

Lawmakers in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle are speculating there’s enough money already appropriated for the Medicaid program until at least January when lawmakers will already be back in the Capitol and can pass a supplemental budget. 

The expansion opens up Missouri’s Medicaid program to about 275,000 individuals in the state. It covers those making less than $18,000 per year and initially had an effective date of July 1.