New federal incentives boost Medicaid expansion talks in Mississippi

Updated: Mar. 24, 2021 at 8:00 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The federal government is ready to sweeten the deal for the dozen states, which includes Mississippi, that haven’t accepted Medicaid. Lawmakers say the money’s talking.

Governor Tate Reeves recently making this clear.

“My position has not changed. I am opposed to expanding Medicaid in Mississippi,” he said at a recent bill signing. “I am opposed to Obamacare expansion. This was a major issue in the Governor’s race in both the Republican primary and the general election, and the people have spoken on that issue.”

But the talks aren’t happening out in the open.

“It’s abrupt and it’s sudden,” said Rep. Robert L. Johnson of the increase in Medicaid expansion talks. “Remember, this time last year we weren’t talking about the flag and all of a sudden it just popped up and the Governor was saying then, ‘No, we don’t need a flag bill let the people decide.’ The governor signed that bill. Look, sometimes things are necessary. Sometimes things happen because they’re the right thing to do and this is one of those things. This is the right thing to do for working people here in the state of Mississippi.”

Republican Rep. Donnie Scoggin thinks that if anything, expansion be a temporary option; questioning how long federal dollars would flow into the state.

“It’s still from a Republican policy point of view, it’s not something that is very popular,” said Scoggin. “However, I’m a nurse practitioner and as a nurse practitioner Medicaid expansion I think would benefit the state of Mississippi tremendously.”

The Mississippi Hospital Association explains that with the new incentive, the federal government for two years would pay the state five percent extra for people already enrolled in Medicaid.

“The existing Medicaid population is much larger than what our expansion population would be,” said MHA President/CEO Tim Moore. “So, what it entails is more money.”

Meanwhile, under the association’s 2019 proposal for Mississippi Cares, the state wouldn’t be on the financial hook at all. Hospitals and premiums from plan members would fund the state’s required 10 percent share to match the 90 percent federal share.

“We cannot forgo the opportunity to bring additional revenue, new dollars into the state of Mississippi to improve the opportunities for our businesses, small and large and then also take care of our working poor that need some type of improved access to healthcare which eliminates the uncompensated care costs to our hospitals,” added Moore.

The legislature is in final days of this legislative session but there is discussion about the possibility of reserving days for them to return and handle some of the federal relief dollars. Rep. Johnson thinks that would be the most likely time to see possible movement on Medicaid expansion.

Alabama, Tennessee and Texas have all had some Republican leaders speak up since the federal incentives were announced. Each saying expansion with the incentives is at least worth considering.

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