Terrance Wise has July 1 marked on his calendar, reminding himself to sign up for free health care after Missouri voters approved Medicaid expansion through a ballot initiative last year.

The move requires the state to provide Medicaid coverage to people aged 19 to 65 with household incomes less than 138% of the federal poverty guideline, or $17,774 a year for a single person, making nearly 300,000 Missourians eligible.

Wise, 42, has not seen a doctor in more than 20 years and was finally looking forward to his eligibility for health care for himself and his three daughters.

 “I can still remember my last doctor’s appointment because I got medicine to treat my psoriasis and eczema and ever since then, I’ve had to deal with the itchiness and discomfort,” Wise said. “But there’s been scarier times. A couple of years ago, I had blood in my urine. I was scared that if I showed up at the hospital, they wouldn’t treat me and I couldn’t afford to rack up another bill because as a low wage worker, I struggle to keep a roof over my family’s head.”

“And we’re finally set to get Medicaid expansion on July 1, but leadership is failing,” Wise said.

Gov. Mike Parson announced this week that Missouri will not expand Medicaid coverage because lawmakers refused to include funding for the program.

“Although I was never in support of MO HealthNet expansion, I always said that I would uphold the ballot amendment if it passed,” Parson said in a news release. “However, without a revenue source or funding authority from the General Assembly, we are unable to proceed with the expansion at this time and must withdraw our State Plan Amendments to ensure Missouri’s existing MO HealthNet program remains solvent.”

Wise and other eligible Missourians are furious and demanding lawmakers respect their vote.

“This is a time for outrage – the kind of anger that goes to work and organizes, the kind of anger that puts itself in such place that we cannot be ignored, and we will not be ignored,” said Tex Sample, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church at a rally organized by Missouri Jobs with Justice, Missouri Health Care for All and MORE2 Friday morning. Other rallies demanding Medicaid have also come up across the state including in Columbia, Springfield, Jefferson City and St. Louis.

At the rally, Wise reminded the crowd that Missouri’s state motto is “the welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.”

“It’s time for us to put that model in action by expanding Medicaid,” he said.

Organizers with Missouri Jobs with Justice say they are confident that the courts will honor their demands to secure Medicaid expansion. Until then, they’re asking Missourians to call their legislators and the Governor’s office.

“We are too wealthy of a nation not to provide access to basic and quality health care for every person, Black and White, red and yellow, rich and poor, working or unemployed, it does not matter,” said Rev. Vernon Howard, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the rally. “We will continue to fight for what is right.”

Jazzlyn "Jazzie” is the former senior reporter for our team, who joined the company in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, through the Report for America service program. For the past two years, she covered...

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