Union protesters, Democratic lawmakers, others call on Parson to implement Medicaid expansion

UNION DEMONSTRATORS, Democratic lawmakers and others gathered in Jefferson City last week to demand Gov. Mike Parson implement Medicaid expansion approved by voters last August. – Missouri Jobs with Justice screencap

Jefferson City – Voter-approved Medicaid expansion was supposed to take effect in Missouri on July 1. Instead, more than 100 mostly union demonstrators – including members of the Teamsters, United Auto Workers and Service Employees (SEIU) – gathered in front of the Governor’s Mansion and on parking the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) Headquarters where Gov. Mike Parson was attending a press briefing, to demand Parson respect the constitutional amendment expanding Medicaid approved by 53 percent of voters last August.

Despite the clear mandate placing Medicaid expansion in the Missouri Constitution, Republicans in the General Assembly blocked funding during this year’s legislative session and Parson refused to implement it, despite having the power to do so.

“Respect our vote!” the crowded chanted. “Governor Parson show your face!”

Parson in January had proposed spending $120 million to cover the expansion, but the Republican dominated legislature refused to fund it and Parson chose not to use his executive power to fund the expansion without legislators’ approval.

Medicaid and Medicare are a basic human right, Jeremy Manley, a spokesman for Teamsters Local 245 in Springfield, Mo., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It helps us dramatically when we go to negotiate good contracts for our members if there’s a health care option that’s available for everyone.”

Jason Starr, president of the United Auto Workers Local 249 in Kansas City, said the union wanted to “stand up” for what voters supported “despite our governor ignoring the will of the voters.”

Starr said his members receive “very good health care” through their union contract, “which is why we believe in it so much.”

Starr said Medicaid expansion would help his members.

“We’re all connected as working people,” Starr said. “So as working people do better, we do better.”

Democratic Reps. Peter Merideth, Doug Clemens, Ashley Aune, and Emily Weber were among the 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.”

The issue is now in the courts. The Missouri Supreme Court is set to hear arguments at 11 a.m. on July 13 on whether the expansion can move forward after a Cole County judge struck down the amendment last month, citing the absence of a specific funding mechanism.

The expansion would extend Medicaid coverage to adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $17,700 per year for an individual.

State Senator Doug Beck (D-Affton), a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 562, supports the expansion. 

“I’ve been a strong supporter of Medicaid expansion because I believe working people should be able to access the same healthcare system as the unemployed,” Beck said.

“Voters agreed. Medicaid expansion is in our Constitution. There is more than enough money in the existing budget to begin expansion as the Constitution requires; the state is sitting on a record budget surplus. This issue is entirely in the hands of the Missouri Supreme Court now, which is unfortunate… and expensive.”

Richard von Glahn, policy director for Missouri Jobs with Justice, which championed the expansion effort, said “Governor Parson has, always has, and continues to have, the power to deliver on his promise to fully implement Medicaid expansion. He has the power to uphold the Missouri Constitution, uphold the will of the people, and deliver health care to more than 275,000 of his fellow Missourians.”


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