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Will Mississipi Expand Its Medicaid Program?

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 30 Jun 2012 01:15pm | comments

Mississippi lawmakers are now facing a choice that could determine the health care options for about 300-thousand Mississippians. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that law makers have to weigh the cost and benefits of expanding the state's Medicaid program.

Mississippi lawmakers now have the option to take federal money to expand Medicaid to include more low income adults previously excluded or leave it as it is.

Governor Phil Bryant and Lt. Governor Tate Reeves believe the state should leave the program alone, saying expanding it could cost the state nearly 2-billion dollars.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke of Hollandale has worries about the price of expanding benefits, especially since the cost of the current program is hard to predict.

"You can't predict how sick people are going to be. If the economy improves you have fewer people on Medicaid. If the economy worsens you have more people on Medicaid. So it is hard to predict what Medicaid is going to cost," Clarke said.

But some democrats argue growing the rolls will help the state.

House minority leader Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto says expanding Medicaid would lower the price Mississippi pays for treating the uninsured.

"So that tax payers are alleviated from that burden. Mississippi tax payers. So that folks in New York and California are going to be footing part of that bill. Yeah, you got to take a look at it," Moak said.

The Mississippi Hospital Association is warning that not expanding the Medicaid program would leave them with so much uncompensated care that hospitals could close.

Roy Mitchell with the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program says the cost is closer to 400-million and will come paired with 11-billion in new federal spending in Mississippi.

"Picking the highest number as well as ignoring the 11-billion dollars that will come to the state, I think is an extension of what we have seen in public health policy for many years and that is not taking full advantage for the Medicaid program,” Mitchell said.

Choosing not to expand Medicaid benefits could put about 300-thousand Mississippians in a gap where they are not eligible for the current program...but also not eligible for new systems the health care law creates to help provide health insurance.

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