State must decide whether to expand Medicaid - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

State must decide whether to expand Medicaid

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

As the poorest state in the country, Mississippi is on the verge of an important decision, expand its Medicaid program or leave it alone.

"It'll impact a large segment of our society," said executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, Roy Mitchell.

Mitchell says the option to expand is one the state cannot afford to pass up.

"This is extremely important, a huge opportunity for the state working families that need this coverage as well as the provider community," said Mitchell.

Under an expansion, hundreds of thousands of Mississippians once excluded would qualify for Medicaid. The federal government would pay for most it with a more than $10 billion investment over a five year period. Adding more folks to the rolls however, has some state leaders in disagreement.

Governor Phil Bryant and Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves are both against an expansion saying the state budget simply can't afford it.

"I would resist any expansion of Medicaid that could result in significant tax increases or dramatic cuts to education, public safety and job creation," said Bryant in a statement.

Reeves maintains an expansion would not benefit the state.

"An expanded Medicaid program would add almost 400,000 new enrollees and cost the state an estimated $1.7 billion over the next 10 years," said Reeves in a statement. "Mississippi taxpayers simply cannot afford that cost, so our state is not inclined to drastically expand Medicaid."

Mitchell says not expanding would leave Mississippi where it currently is, at the bottom of many health rankings, with Mississippians still footing the bills.

"If we don't take advantage of this opportunity, we'll still have a huge population that's uninsured and will continue to go to hospitals and receive uncompensated care through the ER and we just can't sustain that," said Mitchell.

Copyright 2012 WLBT. All rights reserved.

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