MO- Republicans seek new route to impose work requirements on Missouri Medicaid recipients

MM Curator summary

[MM Curator Summary]: Legislators want voters to weigh in on whether able-bodied bennies should have to meet school, volunteer or employment requirements to get benefits.


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Jenna Roberson from Wentzville holds a sign wile listening to speakers at the Rally to Save Missouri Health Care outside the Missouri State Capitol Building in support of Medicaid expansion on Tuesday, April 27, 2021, in Jefferson City.

Photo by Daniel Shular

Daniel Shular

JEFFERSON CITY — Republicans in the Missouri House are charting another path aimed at requiring low-income people to get a job if they want to receive Medicaid health insurance benefits.

A proposed constitutional amendment under consideration in the House would ask voters to remove a prohibition on imposing restrictions on eligibility or enrollment in the state’s MO HealthNet program.

Though the language makes no specific reference to work requirements, it could open the door to them down the road.

“It would just lay the groundwork for allowing work requirements in the future,” said Rep. J. Eggleston, a Maysville Republican who is sponsoring the latest proposal.


Rep. J. Eggleston, De Kalb, is sworn into the Missouri House during the opening ceremonies of the 99th General Assembly in Jefferson City on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. Photo by David Carson,

David Carson

Republicans for years have resisted attempts to expand Medicaid under the terms of the 2010 federal health care law signed by former President Barack Obama.

In 2020, advocates bypassed the Legislature and went directly to voters who approved a constitutional amendment expanding access to the program with 53% of the vote.

Previously, Missouri’s health care program did not cover most adults without children, and its income eligibility threshold for parents was one of the lowest in the nation.

Even after voters approved Medicaid expansion, GOP lawmakers have continued to fight it.

Legislators last year refused to front the money needed to pay for health care for the newly eligible population in hopes of blocking the program’s expansion. A judge ruled in August that Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s administration must implement the program anyway, and lawmakers have since budgeted for the program’s expansion.

Under a separate proposal also moving through the House this year, Medicaid recipients older than 19 and younger than 65 would need to spend at least 20 hours a week working, volunteering, going to school or getting substance abuse treatment, among other work-related options. That change would require approval from the federal government in order to be implemented.

Eggleston said he believes work requirements lead to more “self-sufficiency.” He wants voters to weigh in on the idea.

“We’re just offering the suggestion to see what they want,” Eggleston said.

The concept drew support from GOP members of the House Budget Committee.

“My people want this, and I work for them,” said Rep. Hannah Kelly, R-Mountain Grove.

Democrats said the proposal is another effort by Republicans to undermine the will of the voters, who supported Medicaid expansion in an August 2020 statewide referendum.

“I’m very concerned about this,” said Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury.

Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, said the legislation is merely a modification of the Medicaid expansion vote, not an attempt to gut the program.

“I realize this is an emotional issue for people on both sides,” Richey said.

Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, D-Kansas City, said Republicans should wait and see how the expansion works.

“The whole point of the program is to give people health care so they can go to work,” Bland Manlove said.

Sharon Geuea Jones, a lobbyist for the pro-expansion Missouri Health Care for All group, said the Republican-led Legislature should leave the program alone while it is still in its early stages.

“We haven’t fully implemented it. Why are we going back into it?” Geuea said.

She also said Republicans continually try to alter voter-approved initiatives that they disagree with.

“This body does not trust them and does not care what they think,” Geuea Jones said.

“I think we need to continue to uphold the will of the people,” said Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis.

The legislation is House Joint Resolution 92.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Originally posted at 9:40 a.m. Tuesday, March 1. 


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