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'Why am I in this state?': Centene CEO threatens to leave Missouri over Medicaid expansion

Michael Neidorff questioned why his company is headquartered in a state that doesn’t support his business. The company is Missouri's largest employer

CLAYTON, Mo. — Missouri’s largest employer is threatening to leave the state after state lawmakers didn’t fund a voter-approved Medicaid expansion and Gov. Mike Parson dropped the measure.

Centene CEO Michael Neidorff questioned why his company is headquartered in a state that doesn’t support his business. He spoke candidly with Health Payer Specialist, which serves as a resource for health insurance executives.

“As the largest provider of Medicaid in the United States and a Fortune 42 company I have to ask myself ‘Why am I in this state?’" Niedorff told Health Payer Specialist. “This is a state that frowns on this business – what am I doing here?”

Centene is headquartered in downtown Clayton in St. Louis County. Neidorff said the idea of leaving St. Louis and the state was no idle threat.

Neidorff said he is waiting for Gov. Parson to give him a call to talk about the recent decision not to expand Medicaid.  

“I think the governor is doing what he can,” Neidorff says, but that may not be enough. “Wait till he hears we’re moving out, he’ll probably call me then.”

Gov. Parson responded to KSDK's request for comment, saying:

“Although I was never in support of MO HealthNet expansion, I always said that I would uphold the ballot amendment if it passed. The majority of Missouri voters supported it, and we included funds for the expansion in our budget proposal,” Governor Mike Parson said in an email statement. “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.

"I have a good relationship with Mr. Neidorf and am grateful for Centene’s investments in Missouri. Centene is a strong, reputable company with great employees, and we are proud that they call Missouri home.”

You can read Neidorff's full interview with Health Payer Specialist below:

5 On Your Side contacted Centene for reaction. A spokesperson emailed us this statement:

“Centene is disappointed that the legislature did not honor Missouri voters’ wishes by fully funding Medicaid Expansion. We believe that now, more than ever, Americans must have access to high-quality healthcare as we navigate these uncertain times. We are committed to our employees, our members and the communities we serve here in our home state, and we believe that increasing access to healthcare is an important step forward for Missouri.”

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Last week, Gov. Parson dropped plans to expand the state's Medicaid health care program to thousands of low-income adults after the Republican-led Legislature refused to provide funding for the voter-approved measure.

He noted that the state's $35 billion budget approved by lawmakers last week didn't provide the funding he had requested for an expansion of Medicaid, which is known is Missouri as MO HealthNet.

Though the federal government would fund the vast majority of a Medicaid expansion, some Republican lawmakers said the state cannot afford its share of the long-term costs under the terms of a law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.

Although the Legislature didn't include specific funding for the expansion, Democrats and some health care advocates contend the additional low-income adults could be covered from the general pool of funds that was allotted for Medicaid.

The decision is likely to trigger a lawsuit from supporters of Medicaid expansion.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.