Medicaid expansion issue needs to be resolved

Published 3:29 pm Sunday, April 14, 2024

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Efforts to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor in Mississippi gained the support of faith leaders this week, emphasizing again the desire of many outside the confines of the governor’s office and the Legislature to resolve this issue.

Clergy from throughout Mississippi convened at the statehouse on Thursday, urging lawmakers to pass legislation that fully expands Medicaid coverage to more than 200,000 of the state’s working poor.

The plea comes as lawmakers are debating an expansion-lite plan that would offer coverage to a fraction of those in need. The Senate plan would only extend coverage to individuals earning less than 100% of the federal poverty level, about $15,000; The House plan would extend coverage up to 138% of the federal poverty level, or an income of about $20,000 annually.

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And even though House and Senate leaders are expected to start negotiations on the proposals, Gov. Tate Reeves continues to push back on the need for expansion, touting higher hospital reimbursements from the federal government as a way to offset hospital losses due to the state’s refusal to expand the program.

But that’s simply not enough. The need to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor – those earning less than $20,000 a year – is obvious. And there is no easy solution. Some opponents of expansion have suggested those in need can secure private insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. The Obamacare exchange offers low-cost insurance, often with high deductibles. Having insurance does little good for a person early $15,000 a year if the out-of-pocket deductible is $2,000 or more each year.

The healthcare coverage crisis is real in Mississippi, and it’s a problem that needs to be resolved. The voters want it resolved; the hospitals want it resolved; the people who would benefit need it resolved.

The coalition of clergy members who spoke on Thursday plans to return to the state Capitol on April 16 with hundreds of other people advocating the need for real healthcare coverage expansion in Mississippi.

Let’s hope the lawmakers and governor will listen.