Meridian Star

March 4, 2013

The Affordable Care Act

By Phil Bryant / Mississippi Governor
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —



There has been much public discussion lately about the so-called Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare. In Mississippi, as in many other states, a particular subject of debate is whether or not to expand the Medicaid program, our state’s largest and most costly entitlement program.  In our own Legislature, the issue has become so heated that many Democrat lawmakers are choosing to suspend the current Medicaid program that cares for the blind, aged and disabled in order to force a decision on ObamaCare expansion. Cooler heads must prevail.

    ObamaCare is packed full of mandates and regulations that will pose huge costs to our state. In fact, the 2014 onset of ObamaCare—without a Medicaid expansion—will add $32 million to Mississippi’s existing Medicaid expenditures. For perspective, $32 million is more than four times the State General Fund budget for our fighting men and women in the Mississippi National Guard. Even more troubling, while $32 million is a very large sum of money, it is dwarfed by our current Medicaid budget. This year, Mississippi will spend between $800 and $900 million on Medicaid—about 18 times what we spend for the Highway Patrol and more than 38 times what we spend on economic development and job creation.

    Yet, Democrat lawmakers and lobbyists are clamoring to immediately expand the Medicaid program—potentially adding an additional $1 billion to our already enormous Medicaid budget. They want to force this new burden on you, the taxpayers, before we even have all of the necessary information about the costs and ramifications from the federal government. Hospitals and other special interest  groups are pushing talking points designed to create panic when in reality states are waiting on the federal government for information about how Medicaid payments to hospitals will be made in the future. At this point in time, we simply don’t have all of the facts—all the more reason not to rush headlong into a very serious decision.

    Let me assure you, expanding the Medicaid program will have huge implications for this state’s budget, affecting you, your children and even your grandchildren. However, some are still insistent that we grow this enormous entitlement program. At a minimum, the decision should not be rushed.  

    What’s more, there is a very real possibility the federal government, which has saddled itself with outrageous debt, will not even have the money to pay for some of the promises it has made. Just this week, the Government Accountability Office issued a report on the long-term costs of the Affordable Care Act and agreed with the United States Senate Budget Committee that this gigantic health takeover will add $6.2 trillion to our country’s long term deficit—already about $16 trillion.

    I have written a letter to every member of the Legislature urging them to forgo their posturing and not make this very critical decision until we have the facts. They should reauthorize the existing Medicaid program at the appropriate funding level so the most vulnerable in our state are not cast aside like political pawns.

    If this decision is not made thoughtfully and with full knowledge of its repercussions, Mississippians will pay the price.