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Hundreds Rally For Medicaid Expansion in Mississippi

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 27 Mar 2013 03:57pm | comments

Advocates of Medicaid expansion in Mississippi are trying to drum up support for a vote on the program the legislative session ends in early April.  Hundreds gathered at the state capitol Wednesday to pressure lawmakers to expand the program.

Carrying red signs and wearing green stickers supporting Medicaid expansion, hundreds of doctors, nurses and other advocates took to the halls of the capitol Wednesday.

Among them was 30-year old Desmeon Thomas who has relied on Medicaid for health care since was shot and bound to a wheel chair ten years ago.

"I don't  think sometimes the politicians know how important it is to receive these health care benefits. So I wanted to come out as an advocate so people can realize how important it is that we get this health care and we get these benefits we need," Thomas said.

The federal health care reform law gives state lawmakers the option to expand Medicaid to roughly 300-thousand additional Mississippians.

Pastor Jim Carstonson says his religious faith leads him to support expanding Medicaid.

"We can't do miracles maybe like he did but it is an example of what we as followers of Jesus should be doing. We should be good Samaritans for all people. And therefore, I agree with the Medicaid expansion because it is our duty to do and to care for the least of these," Carstonson said.

Even though the three month legislative session is almost over, the political fight over whether or not to expand the program has caused approval of the entire Medicaid program to be held up.

Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn, who opposes expansion, says there will be a vote when lawmakers are ready to re-approve it.

"People are going to have to decide if they want to continue the Medicaid program our not. And when we reach that point, I assume we will have a bill brought forward and we will vote on it and pass it. but there will not be a bill to expand Medicaid," Gunn said.

There is very little time left in the session for lawmakers to vote either way.

That means legislators could be called back for a special session by the Governor, who also opposes expansion.

The Medicaid program is set to expire July first.

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