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Miss. Democrats Rally for New Medicaid Plan

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 05 Jun 2013 06:00am | comments

Mississippi Democrats say they have a plan to increase health insurance coverage to poor Mississippians that doesn't involve expanding Medicaid.  The plan is expected to be revealed today.

 Democrats and Republicans in Mississippi have been in a stand-off over Medicaid and Medicaid expansion since the end of the 2013 legislative session.

 But today Democrats say they will reveal a new plan that they are calling a private, market based approach alternative to expanding Medicaid to 300-thousand more Mississippians.

 Democratic state representative Steve Holland of Plantersville says getting more Mississippians insured will be a huge boost to the state.

 "There is no economic development project that would be stronger, more substantial, and more sustained in Mississippi than to expand Medicaid to benefit the health economy and community of this state and give 300,000 d citizens some kind of insurance plan. So it is mere hockey puck hypocrisy," Holland said.

 Following an economic development event at the capitol yesterday, Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn says Medicaid expansion should not be looked at through an business development lens.

 "Medicaid expansion is not economic development. Social programs are not economic development. Your talking an enormous cost there," Gunn said.

 So far, 26 states and the district of Columbia say they are interested in or will expand Medicaid.

 The former president of the state medical association Dr. Randy Easterling says state lawmakers are right to go slow when considering if, or how, to expand the Medicaid program.

 "Mississippi has an excellent Medicaid program. Probably one of the best in the country. But we need to tweak it and we need to change it and we need to reform it before we add another 300-thousand on there," Easterling said.

 The exact details of democrats new plan are not clear but it could be similar to a plan in Arkansas to let poor residents use Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance on the health insurance exchange.

 In addition, Governor Phil Bryant says he is also looking for alternatives to Medicaid expansion.

 He has been meeting with federal officials to discussion options.

 The legislature did not fund, re-authorize or expand Medicaid during the 2013 legislative session, the program expires at the end of the month.

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