Red state Medicaid expansion momentum continues to grow

Protesters in Missouri (Photo by Tessa Weinberg/Missouri Independent).

The refusal of Republican legislators to expand Medicaid in North Carolina continues to render our state more and more of an outlier — even amongst states controlled by GOP legislatures.

In just the past week, two dark red states — Oklahoma and Missouri — received new attention for making expansion a reality.

This is from a report from the Center for Children and Families at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute:

Oklahoma successfully implements Medicaid expasnion

Since Medicaid expansion became an option for states in 2012, most Oklahoma lawmakers have been reluctant to take advantage of this life-saving opportunity, despite its health, economic, and fiscal benefits. In response to legislative foot-dragging, advocates leveraged the initiative petition process to put the issue to a vote of the people. In June 2020, voters passed the measure, enshrining Medicaid expansion in the state Constitution. After nearly a decade of opportunity, expansion became reality in Oklahoma on July 1, 2021.

More than 135,000 Oklahomans have already been approved for expansion coverage, and some 70,000 more likely qualify. With thousands of newly eligible residents able to see their doctors without financial stress, Oklahomans will be healthier people, better workers, and more financially secure. Expansion also will bring financial benefits statewide, with an estimated 27,000 new jobs, $15.6 billion in economic activity, and nearly $500 million new tax revenue in the first five years.

Implementation of Oklahoma’s expansion has been successful, largely because of legislative commitment to funding the program, our Medicaid agency’s prioritization of enrollment, and a unified effort by a broad coalition of advocates and community members. While the state’s seen a few growing pains,  thousands of Oklahomans newly have access to health insurance, financial stability, and peace of mind. (Read more…)

Meanwhile, the Missouri Independent reports that GOP efforts to block the decision of voters to expand Medicaid in the “Show Me” state have also foundered:

Missouri Supreme Court rules voter-approved Medicaid expansion is constitutional

Missouri must expand Medicaid to 275,000 eligible people who were expecting coverage under a constitutional amendment that took effect July 1, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

In an unanimous opinion, the court overturned a trial court ruling that the amendment, passed in August 2020 was unconstitutional because it may increase the state’s cost for the Medicaid program. 

By funding the services required under federal law, the state must allow everyone eligible to access those services, the court wrote.

“With no ambiguity, the amounts appropriated and other extrinsic evidence cannot be used to alter the plain language of the purposes stated – to fund MO HealthNet without distinguishing between benefits provided to individuals who are eligible as part of the pre-expansion population and those eligible only under” the expansion amendment, the court wrote.

The ruling “is about as concise of a win as you could imagine for the people of the state of Missouri,” said Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo, D-Independence. (Read more…)

In short, as it has for years now, the national momentum to expand Medicaid continues to pick up steam and the stubborn obstructionism of Republican lawmakers in the shrinking minority of states that includes North Carolina is looking more and more like the obstruction that so many Southern states pursue in resisting civil rights legislation in the mid-20th Century: i.e. doomed to inevitable failure.

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