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Activists Rally For Missouri Legislature To Fund Medicaid Expansion

Nimrod Chapel, President of the Missouri NAACP (left), addresses a rally on the steps of the Capitol Building, flanked by a sign language interpreter.
Jonathan Ahl
St. Louis Public Radio
Nimrod Chapel, President of the Missouri NAACP (left), addresses a rally on the steps of the Capitol Building, flanked by a sign language interpreter.

The current version of the state budget does not include funding for the voter-approved Medicaid expansion.

Activists from all over the state rallied outside the Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City on Tuesday, demanding lawmakers follow the people’s wish to expand Medicaid.

“A budget says what we care about as a state,” said Susan Sneed of Metropolitan Congregations United in St. Louis. “And when there is a zero next to Medicaid expansion, what the people voted for, what does that say?”

Some lawmakers, mostly Republicans, say the state can’t afford expanding Medicaid to 275,000 Missourians, even though the federal government will pay 90% of the cost. Others say that the voters were confused and misled about the ballot initiative because it didn’t include a specific funding plan.

But the crowd outside the Capitol said lawmakers were violating the will of voters and some basic lessons most people learn as children.

“When Momma sent you to the store, you come back with what was on the list. You don’t buy bubble gum. You don’t get you some Cracker Jack,” said Nimrod Chapel, president of the Missouri NAACP. “You come home with what was due.”

Earlier in the day, St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones made her first trip to the Capitol since taking office last week to meet with Gov. Mike Parson. She said that they talked about infrastructure, job creation and early childhood education, but not Medicaid expansion.

“We decided to discuss the things we agree upon today. We have plenty of time to fight later,” she said with a laugh after meeting with Parson. “But today we’re just so happy to see each other and reestablish our relationship.”

Jones and Parson served in the state legislature together. Parson was an opponent of Medicaid expansion but did put funding for it in his budget after the statewide ballot initiative passed.

“I don’t have a district anymore, I have to represent all Missourians, and they voted for it,” Parson said. “So we put it in the budget.”

While the legislature has more than two weeks left in its session, the budget now being considered does not include funding for Medicaid expansion. If that is the final version that passes, it’s likely the Medicaid issue will go to the courts.

Barbara Nydem of Willow Springs, who has been advocating for Medicaid expansion for more than 10 years, said she is confident the funding would be affirmed through the legal process. But she said people in need shouldn’t have to wait.

“There’s not going to be any money there initially while it’s going through the courts,” Nydem said. “And we’re going to see people trying to get service, and they won’t get it."

Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @JonathanAhl
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