Healthcare should not be a political debate

Published 6:54 pm Friday, April 16, 2021

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It’s astounding Mississippi, which is home to some of the unhealthiest people in the country, has not taken advantage of financial offerings from the federal government to provide health care through Medicaid expansion to our working poor.

Mississippi has more than 170,000 people who go to work every day but cannot afford health insurance.

The federal government, through the Affordable Care Act, has offered states the ability to expand Medicaid to cover workers who cannot afford insurance by paying 90 percent of the cost of that care.

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But Mississippi, which is led by a Republican legislature, has said no to that offer because accepting it would offend the national Republican Party and wealthy conservative backers, who have unsuccessfully fought the Affordable Care Act for years.

President Joe Biden further sweetened the pot earlier this year and kicked up the offer of reimbursement for insuring the working poor to 95 percent. Still, Mississippi’s Republican leadership said no.

Meanwhile, the state’s poor get sicker and go without needed medical care and medication. And Mississippi’s small, rural hospitals remain at risk of financial collapse because they must treat the working poor, when they seek medical care, and often do so without getting paid for those services.

The state’s hospital association understands hospitals so desperately need Medicaid expansion, they have offered to kick in the remaining 5 percent of the cost, so the state would effectively pay nothing.

Enough is enough. It’s time our elected leaders made decisions based on what is best for Mississippians rather than what will keep them in good stead with party leaders.

It was heartening this week to hear Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann say Mississippi should look at all ways to provide health care to the state’s working poor and not out of hand dismiss any option. He said the issue should not be politicized.

We agree.

We hope Hosemann leads the state’s legislature to make the common sense decision to accept Medicaid expansion. Doing so will save lives of Mississippians.