Close this search box.

Medicaid Expansion Passes Mississippi House With Veto-Proof 99-20 Majority: ‘A Moral Imperative’

Jason White speaks from the podium at the Mississippi Capitol.
Mississippi House Speaker Jason White, pictured, authored H.B. 1725, a Medicaid expansion bill, along with coauthors Rep. Missy McGee, R-Hattiesburg, and Rep. Omeria Scott, D-Laurel. The House passed the bill by a 98-20 vote on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

A vote for Medicaid expansion won a veto-proof majority in the Mississippi House on Wednesday afternoon. It’s the first time either legislative chamber in Mississippi has held a vote on Medicaid expansion, which could extend eligibility to at least 200,000 working Mississippians, since it became an option under former President Barack Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“Beyond the policy and politics of this issue, what we really have before us is the solution to a fundamental challenge: Access to health care,” Mississippi House Medicaid Chairwoman Missy McGee, R-Hattiesburg, said as she introduced House Bill 1725 to her colleagues on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s a topic that should transcend politics and economics, for at its core it is about the wellbeing and dignity for every Mississippian. Providing opportunities for health insurance is not just a matter of policy, it is a moral imperative and a reflection of the values of our state.”

Read H.B. 1725, the Mississippi House Medicaid expansion bill

The Republican chairwoman presided Tuesday as the House Medicaid Committee unanimously advanced the Medicaid expansion bill to the House floor after hearing experts testify that it could reduce the State’s abysmal health-care rankings and help keep rural hospitals afloat.

“Unfortunately, we as lawmakers can often find ourselves being accustomed to some of the negative indicators regarding our state’s quality of life. We hear them a lot,” McGee said on the House floor Wednesday afternoon. “But what we have to remember is that these statistics aren’t simply numbers on a page; they reflect the tough circumstances faced by actual people. They show the poor conditions experienced by many of our citizens. We need to feel these things. We need to feel the fact that Mississippians have the shortest life expectancy in the nation. We need to face the fact that we have the highest rate of preventable deaths, meaning more Mississippians die unnecessarily than anywhere else. And the reason these things often occur is poor access or no access to care.”

Reeves Still Opposes Medicaid Expansion

For years, former Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn, a Republican who openly opposed expanding Mississippi’s social safety net, blocked consideration of any Medicaid expansion bills. Fortunes for the policy shifted when Gunn retired and the House appointed Jason White, R-West, as speaker.

The new speaker said last year that Medicaid expansion was worth considering. The state leaders who opposed Medicaid expansion over the past decade have foregone over $1 billion in federal funds to grow the program each year, even though it would cost the state little or none to enact. White is listed as the principal author on the Medicaid expansion bill, alongside coauthors Rep. McGee and Rep. Omeria Scott, a Democrat from Laurel.

Governor Tate Reeves speaks at a podium
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves described the Mississippi House Medicaid expansion bill as “straight Obamacare Medicaid Expansion” in a tweet criticizing the legislation on Feb. 28, 2024. Photo courtesy Tate Reeves / Twitter

But Mississippi’s top official, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, still opposes Medicaid expansion, which he often derisively refers to as “Obamacare expansion.”

“Representative McGee keeps saying – over and over – that her bill is for working people. The truth is this: her bill passed by the House committee yesterday is straight Obamacare Medicaid Expansion,” Reeves tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “Applies to as many as 300,000 able-bodied adults who could work but may choose not to… And there is NO (real) work requirement. … HB1725 is EXACTLY like Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama intended it to be written when they passed Obamacare. More free stuff for everyone – except for taxpayers…”

Most people who would become eligible under Medicaid expansion are working people whose income exceeds the cutoff limit for traditional Medicaid but who do not earn enough to afford private insurance. Medicaid expansion would cover individuals making up to 138% of the federal poverty level or $20,120 per year for an individual.

White, McGee and Scott’s Medicaid expansion bill includes a work requirement, though the Biden administration could refuse to allow the state to implement it. McGee made clear during a committee meeting on Tuesday that even if the federal government rejects the work requirement, Medicaid expansion would still become law under H.B. 1725.

“The goal of the plan is to provide health insurance for working Mississippians,” she said. “We believe that at least 75-80% of this population is working, so we certainly don’t want to not help them just because we might be helping another population who might not be working or able to work at the time.”

McGee: ‘It’s OK to Do The Right Thing’

H.B. 1725 now goes to the Senate for consideration. If it passed both chambers, Reeves could veto it, but the Legislature could override his veto with a two-thirds vote of both chambers. The House’s 99-20 majority would be more than enough to overcome a veto in the lower chamber, though it is not clear if the Senate will have a veto-proof majority in favor of Medicaid expansion or not. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann has said senators are working on their own Medicaid expansion bill that will include work requirements. If the differences are significant, that could force members of the two chambers to work together on a compromise bill.

A woman speaking at a legislative committee
Mississippi House Medicaid Committee Chairwoman Rep. Missy McGee, R-Hattiesburg, told her colleagues that Medicaid expansion is a “moral imperative” during a speech on the Mississippi House floor on Feb. 28, 2024. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

While speaking on the House floor Wednesday, McGee urged her colleagues to consider the human cost of not expanding Medicaid.

“We have all heard the many benefits of expanding Medicaid for working Mississippians,” she said. “We have heard about the economic benefits and the revenue that would flow into the state. We have heard about the lifeline this would be for struggling hospitals by reducing uncompensated care. And yes, there is truth in both of those arguments. But today, as you consider a vote on this long-awaited issue, I’d make the case that sometimes it’s OK to do the right thing because it’s the right thing.”

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.