Missouri voters will decide on Medicaid expansion August 4

Missouri voters will vote on Amendment 2, the Medicaid Expansion Initiative, on August 4. Amendment 2 would expand Medicaid eligibility in Missouri to adults that are between the ages of 19 and 65 whose incomes are at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. The amendment would also prohibit any additional restrictions or requirements for the expanded population to qualify for Medicaid coverage than for other populations that qualify for Medicaid coverage. It would also require the Missouri Department of Social Services and the Missouri HealthNet Division to submit state Medicaid plan amendments by March 1, 2021, to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement Medicaid expansion.

The following populations are currently eligible for Medicaid in Missouri:

• Over 65 years of age,
• Blind or disabled,
• Adults with dependent children with a household income at or below 22% of the federal poverty level,
• Infants under the age of one in a household with an income at or below 196% of the federal poverty level,
• Children between the ages of one and 18 in a household with an income at or below 150% of the federal poverty level, and

• Pregnant women with a household income at or below 196% of the federal poverty level.

Amendment 2 was sponsored by Yes on 2: Healthcare for Missouri. The campaign submitted 341,440 signatures to the Missouri Secretary of State on May 1, 2020, to qualify the measure for the ballot. In Missouri, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated constitutional amendment for the ballot is equal to 8% of the votes cast for governor in the previous gubernatorial election in six of the eight state congressional districts. The initiative qualified in districts 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7. A total of 172,015 valid signatures were required, and a projected total of 258,686 signatures submitted by the campaign were valid in those districts.

There are two political action committees, Healthcare for Missouri and Missourians for Healthcare, registered to support Amendment 2. As of July 27, 2020, the committees had raised a total of $10.1 million, with Missourians for Healthcare receiving the bulk of the contributions. The top five donors to the campaign included the Missouri Hospital Association, the North Fund, the Health Care Issues Committee of the Missouri Hospital Association, the Health Forward Foundation, and the Washington University.

The support campaign argued that the coronavirus pandemic has shown the need for Medicaid expansion. Jack Cardetti, a spokesperson for the Yes on 2 campaign, said, “Now more than ever, Missourians need to be able to access care in their own communities and protect thousands of local frontline healthcare jobs. … Amendment 2 will help keep rural hospitals and urban clinics open by bringing $1 billion of our own tax dollars back from Washington, instead of going to the 37 other states that have expanded Medicaid.”

No on 2 in August is leading the campaign in opposition to Amendment 2. The committee organized in early June and has reported $112,000 in contributions. Opponents have argued that expanding Medicaid is not economically prudent. State Senator Bob Onder (R-2) said, “The money needed to expand Medicaid is going to come from somewhere. It either has to come from education, from roads or from massive tax increases. … I do think that Missourians, particularly in these challenging economic times, will realize that a massive expansion of the Medicaid program isn’t something that we can afford.” Missouri Governor Mike Parson (R) also came out in opposition to expanding Medicaid. He argued, “I don’t think it’s the time to be expanding anything in the state of Missouri right now. There’s absolutely not going to be any extra money whatsoever.”

In 2017, Maine was the first state to vote on a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid. It was approved. In 2018, ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid in Utah, Nebraska, and Idaho were approved. A 2018 initiative in Montana that would have renewed Medicaid expansion and increased tobacco taxes was defeated. On June 30, 2020, Oklahoma approved an initiative to expand Medicaid. It was approved 50.5% to 49.5%. Maine, Utah, and Oklahoma expanded Medicaid with opposition from Republican governors. Idaho expanded it with support from its Republican governor. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts (R) did not take a side on the question.

In Missouri, all polling places are open from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Central Time. Missouri voters may vote by mail with notarization of the ballot envelope. If a voter is in an at-risk category for contracting COVID-19, the voter may vote via absentee ballot without notarization. The deadline to request a mail-in ballot was July 22. Absentee ballots may be requested in-person until August 3. All ballots must be received by 7:00 p.m. on election day.

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