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Protesters gather in capital city to call for Medicaid expansion

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — More than 100 demonstrators — including several lawmakers — gathered in downtown Jefferson City in support of Medicaid expansion, which was set to go into effect Thursday. 

Protestors spread across the sidewalk in front of the Governor’s Mansion calling for the expansion, moving to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Headquarters as Gov. Mike Parson attended a press briefing there. The crowd was not allowed into the building during the event. 

“That demonstration probably would have been more served during the legislative session,” Parson told reporters. “The reality of it is nothing’s going to change until next session on Medicaid expansion. It simply wasn’t funded and when we approved the budget, it wasn’t there.”

Democratic Reps. Peter Merideth, Doug Clemens, Ashley Aune, and Emily Weber were among Thursday’s demonstrators. Meredith said the governor was “afraid to show his face as he denies the vote of the people, the will of the people, and the constitution of our state.”

“When I voted yes on Amendment 2 last August, that was a tiny flame of hope,” said Nina Canaleo, one of Thursday’s speakers who has multiple sclerosis and would be covered under the expansion. “While I put my life at risk going to work as a janitor during this pandemic, without sick days or benefits, knowing that I would soon have Medicaid was a glimmer of hope. When Gov. Parson broke his promise, lied, and rescinded Missouri’s plans to fully implement Medicaid expansion, he extinguished that hope.”

The legislature passed its budget without funding the expansion this session despite numerous attempts in both chambers and a recommendation from Parson. The Republican chief executive signed off on the budget Wednesday. 

The expansion is the subject of a legal challenge as well: Three mothers who would be covered under the expansion filed a suit against the state, asking the court to find the lack of funding for the expansion unlawful and seeking an injunction to allow the plaintiffs and others who would be eligible to enroll and receive the same treatment as those already covered under the program.

A Cole County judge ruled that the state was not obligated to fund the expansion last week; the case was appealed and is headed to the Missouri Supreme Court later this month. 

Missourians voted to become the 38th state to expand its Medicaid program last August, moving to cover more than 270,000 people who earn less than $18,000 a year.

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