The US Supreme Court has ruled that Missouri’s state-based health insurance plan does not cover sex work, but a panel of the court’s three liberal justices is expected to issue a ruling soon on the matter.
The court’s decision to allow the plan to continue with the ban on sex work does not necessarily mean that the state’s sex workers will be able to access insurance.
The state’s Health and Human Services Department will now have to implement the state policy, but the department has yet to do so, according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations.
The Missouri health care system has been facing pressure from activists and sexual health advocates to implement a policy to cover sex worker workers in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The decision means the state has a one-year window to change its policy, a person with knowledge of the matter said.
The ruling is likely to further erode support for the Missouri health system among advocates who are opposed to the state making any changes to its sex worker policy, according.
A bill that would have allowed sex workers to obtain insurance under a state program is expected by the end of the month, and the state is likely looking at ways to expand the program beyond the six sex worker-run clinics it already operates.
But the bill faces opposition from a variety of organizations, including the Missouri chapter of the National Organization for Women, as well as sexual health groups and advocacy groups.
Maggie Rucker-Pfeffer, the president of the Missouri Sex Workers Alliance, said in a statement on Tuesday that she was disappointed with the Supreme Judicial Court’s decision.
She said the state would still continue to work to ensure that sex workers have health coverage.
Rucker-Aguilar, a sex worker in her mid-40s who said she works in several clinics in St. Louis, said the Supreme court’s ruling is “a step backwards” in Missouri.
“Sex workers and their advocates continue to fight for the right to health care for all, and Missouri continues to stand out among states by not providing any coverage for sex workers,” she said.
A similar bill that has been introduced in the Missouri legislature would have extended the state program to sex workers with incomes up to $25,000.
It was unsuccessful in the Republican-controlled legislature.