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New Medicaid Expansion Projection Could Shape Mississippi Debate

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 23 Oct 2012 05:21pm | comments

A new report finds that expanding Medicaid in Mississippi may not cost nearly as much as first thought. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports this study could be the foundation for Mississippi law makers to decide whether or not to expand Medicaid in the state.

The report estimates that expanding Medicaid in Mississippi would cost just over 100-million dollars in the first six years, rather than the 1-point-7-billion dollar price tag that an early report had predicted.

Study Author Bob Neal with the Institutions of Higher Learning says this new research looks at state costs, but also counts the potential increase in yearly federal spending in Mississippi.

"We estimate that federal dollars to Mississippi would be about 893-million dollars. And that would generate an estimated 8,400 jobs," Neal said.

States have the option to expand Medicaid under the health care reform law.

This is the first report to project costs beyond 2020.

Neal estimates that beyond that point, the new Medicaid population could cost just under 100-million dollars a year....a number that is one-quarter the size of earlier estimates.

Advocates for Medicaid expansion, like Cory Wiggens with the Mississippi Heath Advocacy Program, say the report underscores the need to expand Medicaid in the upcoming legislative session.

"In addition to creating jobs, you are going to have some additional revenue coming into the state. You are going to have more of your tax base working in the state. And over the long term, you are going to increase productivity. You are going to have a healthy work force. You are going to have healthier families. It is undeniable that those benefits to me, in our opinion, outweighs the costs," Wilson said.

Many leading state Republicans have opposed expansion because of the cost.

Governor Phil Bryant says even the lower estimates could make the whole Medicaid program too much for the state to afford.

"So you are getting close to a billion a year, out of a five billion dollar budget, spent strictly on Medicaid. We can't sustain that. There is no way we can pull a billion dollars out of this without draconian cuts to education, public safety, (and) transportation," Bryant said.

The study also finds that expanding Medicaid could bring more than 300-thousand Mississippi into the program....but that rise in people with insurance could also tax the state's health care system and make it hard for all Mississippians to access medical care.

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