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Lawmakers Begin Talks on Medicaid Expansion

By Daniel Cherry | Published 10 Dec 2012 09:12pm | comments
Mississippi lawmakers are beginning talks on whether to expand the Medicaid program to cover 300 thousand low-income residents. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports...
 
The state director of Medicaid told lawmakers at a joint Senate committee hearing Monday, expanding Medicaid could cost up to one billion dollars over 7 years. Under the Affordable Care Act, lawmakers have until 2014 to decide whether to expand the program. Senate Health Committee Chairman, Dean Kirby, warns, this isn't a decision to rush into.
 
"I think we even need to go as far as seeing how it's working in other states. I don't think that we're in any great rush, but I do think that we need to know all the facts before we make a decision on what we do."
 
Many state leaders say, the state can't afford an expansion. But Ed Sivak, Director of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center says, factoring in the projected economic impact, the state can't afford not to expand.
 
"We can either put up the money to expand Medicaid, create 9,000 jobs, cover 300,000 people, and bring in one billion dollars a year to the state. Or we can put up the same amount of money just to provide the current level of services that we're providing now."
 
Lawmakers also heard from insurance officials on the state's health insurance exchange. Under the Affordable Care Act, states either set up their own exchange or accept the federal government's plan. Many top Republicans oppose the exchange. But Senate Insurance Committee Chairman, Videt Carmichael, wants to go ahead with Mississippi's plan, to avoid federal government involvement.
 
"We can guarantee that they have it if we don't do it. That's an end that we know for sure so if we have our own state health exchange, we know that. Now whether they would eventually take it over or not, I don't know."
 
An insurance exchange will allow Mississippians to shop online for health insurance. Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says, one way or another, an insurance exchange is coming soon. Daniel Cherry...MPB News.

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