Expanding Medicaid would save lives

Published 9:24 pm Friday, February 5, 2021

It is difficult to understand how anyone who knows the state of health care and the economy in Mississippi could in good conscience continue to reject Medicaid expansion.

According to a recent story in Mississippi Today, Mississippi lost out on $9 billion in economic impact and about 9,000 new jobs when then-Gov. Phil Bryant said no thanks to Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Seven years later, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land and Mississippi’s health care system is worse off than ever, thanks to COVID.

Thirty-nine other states have expanded Medicaid. But in Mississippi, which is considered the sickest and poorest state in the country, the working poor fall in the cracks. Cashiers, cooks, medical aides, construction workers, waiters, janitors, agriculture workers — these Mississippians work long, hard hours, but their jobs don’t offer health care benefits. The cost of a private insurance policy is prohibitive, so these hard-working Mississippians go without health care coverage.

These working uninsured have no primary care provider and when sick, they wind up in the emergency room, where care costs about 10 times that available in a doctor’s office.

If the state expanded Medicaid, between 200,000 and 300,000 Mississippians would qualify for coverage that would be largely paid for by the federal funds from the federal government.

Expanding Medicaid and benefiting from the federal dollars the come along with it would be a lifesaver for Mississippi’s hospitals. Many rural hospitals are at risk of closing, a situation that has only worsened since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mississippi hospitals are providing care for which they are not being paid. That’s reached a level that is no longer sustainable. Medicaid expansion for mean hospitals would be paid for much more of the care they provide.

Expanding Medicaid in Mississippi is a life-saving measure. Without it, our working poor are dying because they can’t afford medical care, when one move by Mississippi’s elected officials would put health care within their reach.