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What’s next for Medicaid expansion efforts in Mississippi without a ballot initiative process?

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 8:51 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi lawmakers left Jackson without getting resolutions on two big issues: ballot initiatives and Medicaid expansion.

There are 38 states that have expanded Medicaid. Some Mississippians got tired of not joining that list and started a ballot initiative to make it happen.

Now that that process is derailed, what does that mean for expansion chances?

Advocates admit the most likely avenue to get Medicaid expansion in Mississippi is no longer available.

“When Healthcare for Mississippi was started, it appeared to be the only way to get the ball rolling was to do it through a ballot initiative,” noted pediatrician Dr. John Gaudet. “All indicators pointed to the fact that this ballot initiative was going to be successfully placed on the ballot and was going to pass.”

“I think unless we’re able to get a more reasonable understanding of Medicaid expansion with the leadership, then I think we have to continue to have that thought going forward, whenever it is,” said Mississippi Hospital Association President and CEO Tim Moore.

The House and Senate leaders say the ballot initiative process failed after a disagreement over how many signatures should be required. But even if they did pass a measure to restore the right in the 2023 session, it would still have to go to a vote by the public in November.

That leaves the earliest possible date for a new ballot initiative at November of 2024. Dr. John Gaudet says he’d rather those Mississippians not have to wait for access to care.

“I think Medicaid expansion is best handled at the level of the legislature and in the Division of Medicaid in order to implement Medicaid expansion without having to go through a ballot initiative. That can happen right away is the legislators can make it happen as soon as they’re ready,” added Gaudet.

Less than a week after the session, the Delta Council, that’s historically been a relatively conservative pro-business group, had a sub-committee unanimously pass this resolution supporting Medicaid expansion.

It’s the kind of endorsement Moore says could get lawmakers’ attention.

“We’ll continue to work with the leadership to try to find ways that it’s receptive to them,” noted Moore. “We’ve got to get away from this narrative that it’s Obamacare. That’s not the case anymore. I mean, it’s just really difficult to argue that, okay. It’s a soundbite.”

Lawmakers did vote to expand Medicaid coverage to some inmates paroled for medical reasons this session, but Medicaid expansion fears were the reason the Speaker said the postpartum Medicaid coverage extension failed.

Expansion as a whole was never debated by the full chambers this session.

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