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Gov. Reeves Steadfast in Opposing Medicaid for More Working Mississippians

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks at a press conference
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says he still opposes expanding Medicaid in Mississippi to help an additional 200,000 to 300,000 Mississippians who make too much for traditional Medicaid but cannot afford health insurance. He made the comments after Congress passed a stimulus package that would offer Mississippi an extra $600 million to expand the program. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves says he still opposes expanding Medicaid in Mississippi even though the federal government is offering to give the state an extra $600 million to do so over a two-year period.

“My position has not changed. I am opposed to expanding Medicaid in Mississippi,” Gov. Reeves said during a press conference yesterday before reverting to his preferred political term for the idea. “I am opposed to Obamacare expansion.”

Since 2014, Mississippi has rejected more than $7 billion in federal dollars that could have been used to expand eligibility to an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 more Mississippians. Former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and current Gov. Tate Reeves, both Republicans, oppose Medicaid expansion after President Barack Obama created it when he signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

Expanded Medicaid would help Mississippians whose household income is too high for traditional Medicaid, but who do not earn enough to afford health insurance or to qualify for subsidized ACA insurance plans.

That has created a “Medicaid gap in Mississippi and 11 other Republican-led states that have refused to accept expansion funds, leaving many households with few options for medical care. It has also put a strain on cash-strapped rural emergency rooms, several of which have had to close their doors since 2014, because they are required by law to treat uninsured patients.

Medicaid Expansion Could Grow Economy

Mississippi Senate Public Health Committee Chair Hob Bryan, D-Amory, told Mississippi Today reporter Bobby Harrison last week that the Mississippi Division of Medicaid’s estimates show that the state could get an additional $300 million per year over two years under President Joe Biden’s $1.9-trillion stimulus-relief package. Biden signed the bill into law today. 

“For a number of years, the federal government has been offering us $1 million a day to take care of sick people. Now they are offering $1 million a day to take that other $1 million a day. You can’t make this stuff up,” the Amory Democrat told Harrison.

If Mississippi did expand Medicaid, the federal government would cover 100% of the cost for the first few years. In later years, the State would be required to cover 10% of the costs.

In 2015, Louisiana replaced an anti-expansion governor with Democrat John Bel Edwards, who signed Medicaid expansion into law in 2016. Louisiana State University and the Louisiana Department of Health reported that, after one year, Medicaid expansion had grown the number of people with health coverage by 470,000 while saving the state $317 million and creating 19,000 new jobs.

A November 2012 study by the Center for Mississippi Health Policy estimated that the state would have added 9,000 new jobs under Medicaid expansion and that it would have cost about $96 million by 2025.

“Multiple studies suggest that expansion can result in state savings by offsetting state costs in other areas. … Additional studies show that Medicaid expansions result in reductions in uncompensated care costs for hospitals and clinics, and a growing number of studies show an association between expansion and gains in employment as well as growth in the labor market (with a minority of studies showing neutral effects in this area),” the Kaiser Family Foundation reported in March 2020.

‘The Consequences of Human Suffering’

At the press event on Thursday, though, Gov. Reeves pointed out that he opposed Medicaid expansion as part of his 2019 run for governor. He claimed that his electoral victory, which he won by a 5.5-point margin that year, proved that most Mississippians do not want it. 

As Reeves made those remarks, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, a Republican who ran as a supporter of expanding Medicaid that same year, stood nearby. He won his election by a 20-point margin in 2019, garnering 65,000 more votes than Reeves.

A January 2020 Millsaps College and Chism Strategies survey found that 60% of Mississippians supported expanding Medicaid.

WTM Healthcare Press Conference
Members of the Mississippi clergy and Working Together Mississippi organizers gathered at New Horizon Church on Ellis Avenue in Jackson, Miss., to unveil a letter to the Mississippi Legislature supporting Medicaid expansion. Photo by James T. McNeil

Earlier this week, Taylor McKay Hathorn reported for the Mississippi Free Press on a group of Mississippi clergy members and activists who joined together in Jackson to deliver a letter to the Mississippi Legislature in support of expanding Medicaid. 

“We talk about the consequences of human suffering,” Working Together Mississippi’s lead organizer Chevon Chatman said. “There’s no good reason not to do this. This would bring in hundreds of million to a billion dollars a year to Mississippi, a poor state. (This letter) certainly highlights that. It’s nonsensical and absurd, even from an economic standpoint.”

Correction: The reporter erroneously stated in an earlier version of the story that a 2012 study estimated that Medicaid expansion would bring $96 million in economic growth by 2025. That is incorrect. The 2012 study said “the net fiscal impact to the state in 2025 is $96 million,” meaning expansion would cost the state $96 million by 2025. We apologize for this error.

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