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Black Mississippi Lawmakers Call For Medicaid Expansion

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 04 Jul 2012 12:45pm | comments
Black Caucus chairman Kenny Wayne Jones.

Members of the Mississippi Legislative Black Caucus are promising to push to expand Medicaid during the upcoming legislative session. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports expanding Medicaid is one key element of the Health Care Reform law.

The African-American lawmakers want to expand Medicaid to cover all Mississippians up to 133-percent of the federal poverty level or about 30-thousand dollars a year for a family of four.

Speaking at the Capitol, Senator John Horhn of Jackson says expanding the program means 10-billion dollars in new federal spending in Mississippi over the next ten years.

"It makes great sense in that the first three years of the Medicaid expansion, 100-percent of those cost for the expansion will be covered by the Federal Government. And there after the state would only have to pick up 10-percent of the coverage with the Federal Government picking up the other 90-percent," Horhn said.

Expanding Medicaid would also provide health care to more than half of the 500-thousand uninsured Mississippians.

Vicksburg-based Doctor Gloria Butler joined the black lawmakers and says focusing on the money misses the bigger picture.

"We are getting so caught up in the area of dollars and cents and I know that is important. But the main reason it is called Affordable Care is because it should be Affordable Care. Especially in Mississippi. #1 in obesity. #1 in cancer. #1 in heart disease. There has to be a change," Butler said. 

The black caucus members are all democrats but it is  republicans who control both chambers of the legislature.

The Governor, Lt. Governor and Speaker of the House have offered early opposition to the expansion.

Speaking on the day the US Supreme Court issued its ruling, Governor Phil Bryant says expanding Medicaid could trigger spending cuts in other areas of the government or tax increases.

"We will certainly seek opportunities that the state might have to reduce the welfare cost to Mississippians. If you are looking at adding 400-thousand (people) that literally would damage the budget beyond repair," Bryant said.

Early estimates are that it will cost the state 400-to-600 million dollars over the next seven years if the state decides to expand coverage.

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Black Caucus chairman Kenny Wayne Jones.


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