Hard-headed and hard-hearted Mississippi leaders can’t do math. So wrote Greenwood Commonwealth editor Tim Kalich regarding Mississippi’s stand against Medicaid expansion
“Gov. Tate Reeves and Republican lawmakers who resist Medicaid expansion have for years said that Mississippi cannot afford to extend health-care coverage to the working poor. They obviously don’t bother to do the math.”
You see, the latest COVID relief package makes Medicaid expansion much more affordable.
State Sen. Hob Bryan, chairman of the Senate Public Health Committee, told Mississippi Today, “there will be more money in the state treasury if we expand Medicaid than if we don’t.”
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney explains. “The federal government puts up 80 cents of every dollar that we spend on Medicaid,” he told the Community Foundation for Mississippi’s local news collaborative. “If Mississippi were to expand, that amount would increase to 95 cents.”
Kalich explained further. “The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit that focuses on U.S. health-care policy, particularly as it affects people of low income, ran the numbers.” He said that for Mississippi, the net effect would be an estimated $400 million more in direct federal payments. “Put another way, for every $1 that Mississippi were to spend to cover the new Medicaid enrollees, it would save $2.38 on its cost of covering the existing ones.
“If Reeves and Mississippi lawmakers still aren’t convinced,” wrote Kalich, the Mississippi Hospital Association has offered a plan to transfer the state’s cost of expansion to the hospitals and to the new Medicaid beneficiaries – leaving the state treasury with almost nothing to pony up.”
“Still Mississippi’s political leadership says, ‘No thanks.’ It would rather see those millions go elsewhere than to accept another Democratic welfare-state program,” wrote Kalich.
“I am opposed to expanding Medicaid in Mississippi,” Reeves reiterated in March. Asked if the new COVID rescue money would change his mind he said, “No, sir, it will not.”
This is where Republican hypocrisy reveals itself. The governor and lawmakers are okay with the federal dole for farmers, for paving highways and building bridges across the state, and for Community Development Block Grants used for economic development.
“It is only when it comes to helping the poor or the near-poor that Mississippi’s pride – and perhaps prejudice – gets in the way,” wrote Kalich.
“Medicaid expansion is not about putting people on the welfare rolls,” said Chaney, expressing a view different from other GOP leaders. “This is about expanding health care availability to those people that make 138% of the poverty level or less. And that’s about 300,000 to 400,000 people in this state.”
These are people who work but don’t have employer insurance, cannot qualify for regular Medicaid or Obamacare subsidies, and cannot afford regular health insurance. Most private employers in Mississippi do not offer health insurance to employees.
Of course, Medicaid expansion is about more than numbers and politics. It’s about saving lives, saving hospitals, retaining and attracting more doctors, and providing a healthy workforce to attract jobs.
“This state’s stand on Medicaid expansion is hard-headed and hard-hearted,” concluded Kalich. No, it’s amoral, shortsighted, and witless Tim.
“For they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened” – Mark 6:52.
Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.