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Tuesday’s Election Sets Up Big Issues For Mississippi

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 07 Nov 2012 05:19pm | comments

The direction of health care and the economy in Mississippi are pressing problems now that the general election is complete. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports a couple big questions face Mississippi.

The president's re-election means the health care reformed law will likely not be repealed.

As part of the law, State lawmakers must now decide whether or not to expand Medicaid to cover an additional 300-thousand people at an eventual cost of 100-million dollars a year.

Expansion advocate Corey Wiggins with the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program is pleased that the health care law will be able to take full effect.

"You also get the benefit of having a healthier work force in this state to be able to work and be more productive. In addition, you provide economic security to working families throughout this state. So it is one of those issues that once you do it, once you expand Medicaid, there are so many things that we stand to benefit from it," Wiggins said.

Leading state Republicans have strongly opposed expanding the Medicaid program.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves says the president's re-election means health care reform is now the law of the land, but points out many of the regulations in the law have not been finalized.

At a recent political event, Lt. Governor Tate Reeves says the state cannot afford expansion.

"The notion that we are going to from 650-thousand to over 1-million people on Medicaid, well over a third and almost 40% of our population on Medicaid. It simply doesn't make sense to us and if you look at the numbers it doesn't make economic or financial sense either," Reeves said.

A set of automatic budget cuts and tax hikes are scheduled to take effect January first if President Barack Obama and congress do not come to an agreement to delay them.

State senior economist Marianne Hill says those cuts could badly hurt Mississippi's slowly growing economy.

"As the debt crisis national continues, we expect to see further contraction of federal funds come into this state which is especially critical here. The value of our output is about 100-billion and the value of federal funds is about 30-billion. So we are highly dependent on federal funds for maintaining employment in this state," Hill said.

Currently, Mississippi's economy is only expected to grow about 2-percent a year, and not reach pre-recession unemployment levels until 2018.

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