Missouri voters on Tuesday approved a plan to expand the state’s Medicaid program, making it the second state to expand coverage this year since the coronavirus pandemic battered its economy.
More than half of voters, 53 percent, voted in a ballot initiative to expand federal health insurance coverage to more than 230,000 low-income residents. The program’s expansion will provide health coverage for individuals between 19 and 65 who make $17,608 or less, or households of four earning $36,156 or less.
Missouri’s expansion makes it the 38th state to expand Medicaid benefits since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010. Republicans in the state legislature have repeatedly slapped down efforts to expand the program, a fixture of Obamacare. Five other states controlled by the GOP have also voted to expand Medicaid.
Last month, voters in Oklahoma, another Republican-led state, also narrowly approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid coverage to the state’s poorer residents.
The decision comes after more than 740,000 Missouri residents have filed for unemployment benefits between mid-March, when the outbreak began in the U.S., and the end of July, according to data from the state’s labor department. Enrollment in Missouri’s Medicaid program spiked nearly nine percent between February and May, and Republican Governor Mike Parson had argued that the state could not afford to expand benefits.
Meanwhile, Missouri has seen its coronavirus cases increase in recent weeks, along with several southern and western states. The state has more than 54,000 cases of the virus and averages more than 1,200 new cases a day. Hospitals in St. Louis reported a spike in hospital admissions on Tuesday.