Coast organizations hope opinion poll will lead to Medicaid expansion

Coast organizations hope opinion poll will lead to Medicaid expansion

SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - Coast organizations that serve low-income families say they hope a recent opinion poll on Medicaid expansion in Mississippi will lead to changes in state policy. The Mississippi Health Advocacy Program announced the results of the latest Mason-Dixon Poll in D'Iberville Tuesday. The group said offering health care to the poor will help families and hospitals that are battling debt, like Singing River.

Jennifer Sjoblom is an unemployed mom who is raising two teenagers. Her family relies on the Medicaid program.

"Without Medicaid, I would not be able to access doctors whatsoever because of my financial situation. I am also provided medical transport, which is my only way to get to my appointments," said Sjoblom.

The Mississippi Health Advocacy Program said more than 300,000 other Mississippians would be eligible for Medicaid, if the state expands the program. The executive director pointed to an April Mason-Dixon poll that showed 58 percent of Mississippi voters support expanding Medicaid coverage, even if the state has to put up 10 percent of the cost.

"I can tell you this one was very surprising, even to us," said Roy Mitchell.

Mitchell said the public is starting to see the economic benefits of expanding Medicaid, because the state could receive more than $8 billion from the federal government through 2020.

"Mississippians know a good deal when they see it. Medicaid expansion is a true bargain for Mississippi, especially when you consider the cost of maintaining the status quo," said Mitchell.

"I think people are coming to the realization that this is an economic stimulus, especially in local communities. A lot of businesses support local hospitals and clinics, and we're missing out on that money. We're leaving it on the table for states like Arkansas and Kentucky that have chosen to expand Medicaid," he added.

Mitchell said expanding Medicaid could also help Singing River Hospital, which is dealing with a pension crisis.

"They see a lot of uninsured patients. As such, that hurts their bottom line. When I mean uninsured, I mean people without Medicaid, people who have nothing and Singing River has had to eat that cost for some time," he said.

Several organizations say ultimately, it's about helping families that are struggling to make ends meet.

"If they're feeling better, if their health is improved, then they'll be able to take advantage of resources that agencies like ours offer," said Back Bay Mission Executive Director Alice Graham.

"If people get the health care they need, that means they'll be more productive at work. They will be better able to find jobs and stay on jobs. They'll be better able to care for their children because they won't be as stressed. It just means a lot, so I was ecstatic about the numbers," she added.

"I am for that definitely. I think everybody in my opinion should be able to access health care," said Sjoblom.

The group plans to hold a series of public meetings across the state over the summer to explain the Medicaid program, and get input from residents and health care providers.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.