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She battled the state for Medicaid and won

Melinda Hille is one of roughly 275,000 Missourians now eligible for coverage, a moment she calls life-changing

FENTON, Mo. — Melinda Hille has been getting a lot of good news over the phone from her lawyer lately.

"He started crying. I started crying," she said of the moment she learned the state Supreme Court backed her case.

A few months later, attorney Joel Ferber would call again with the thing she'd fought seven years for: Medicaid coverage.

"He personally called me and then he said, 'you're covered.' And he sent me the PDF that says that I have a Medicaid number now," she said.

Hille is one of roughly 275,000 Missourians now eligible for coverage, a move she calls life-changing.

"I owe hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills over the past seven years," she said. "Every day you worry about bills anyway by how you're going to pay for this medicine."

Hille said she's accumulated about $5,000 in bills since July 1, the date when the expansion was initially slated to go into effect. Governor Mike Parson tried to block the voter-approved measure, saying the legislature had failed to fund the coverage.

The state Supreme Court sided with healthcare advocates and would-be recipients.

RELATED: After court ruling, 275,000 Missourians are now eligible to sign up for Medicaid expansion

Hille said the decision includes retroactive coverage for the treatments she's undergone since July.

"Health insurance is a game-changer for everybody, and everyone should have it," healthcare advocate Laura Packard said.

Packard, the executive director of Health Care Voter, said there may be 275,000 Missourians now eligible, but there are more than 2 million Americans eligible in other holdout states. Federal lawmakers have the opportunity to include coverage in the Build Back Better plan currently under debate in Washington, and she says voters will need to pressure their elected officials on this topic.

"For anybody that is going through something medically, they need healthcare. I mean, I am a cancer survivor, and four years ago the Affordable Care Act saved my life," she said.

Hille suffers from diabetes, requiring several medications. Complications have caused unbearable pain in her legs, dental damage. And as her health declined, so did her job prospects.

"It's gotten to the point where I physically can't function anymore, and it didn't have to get to this point if I were to have access to proper care," she said, adding that she's already contacted her healthcare provider to see the specialists she needs.

"The future looks probably 100% better," she said.