Judge blocks Medicaid expansion in Missouri

A Missouri judge blocked Medicaid expansion in the state on Wednesday, saying the ballot initiative that voters approved last year was unconstitutional.

The court action stems from Republican Gov. Mike Parson's decision last month not to expand Medicaid to roughly 275,000 low-income adults on July 1 because lawmakers did not appropriate funding.

"The court concludes that the state's refusal to enroll plaintiffs and other eligible individuals in the MO HealthNet program is not unlawful," said Judge Jon Beetem of the Cole County Circuit Court, adding that funding was not the problem. "Notwithstanding a majority vote of the people, an initiative which does not comply with the limits of the constitution cannot stand."

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, three Missourians with chronic health conditions who cannot afford coverage or treatment, said he planned to appeal directly to the state's Supreme Court.

An appellate court in Missouri last year ruled that the ballot initiative did not violate the state's constitution, said Chuck Hatfield, partner at Stinson law firm and one of the attorneys who brought the current suit. The state constitution does not allow ballot initiatives to appropriate money without covering that appropriation with new revenues.