Mississippi Moment: Medicaid Expansion

Mississippi Moment

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Over the past year, Mississippi has tackled a couple of tough subjects that many of us thought would never be taken up in Mississippi. We changed the state flag and we enacted medical marijuana.

So I thought, while we were on a roll, let’s take on expanding Medicaid while we’re at it.

Now, I didn’t just hop out of bed one morning and come up with this idea. Well, maybe I did, sort of. I hopped out of bed and started checking my email, and a few days ago the banner in article in the daily ‘Mississippi Today’ email feed was by Luke Ramseth. It was about how Mississippi is leaving a billion dollars on the table every year that we could be using to provide healthcare to about 170,000 people who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to participate in the Affordable Care Act.

Now, the billion federal dollars isn’t free. The state would have to pick up the tab on 10 percent of it or about a $100 million, which the state can’t afford. However in the article, Luke says that the Mississippi Hospital Association has come up with a plan where the state wouldn’t have to pay that 10 percent. Hospitals would pay a tax and also participants in the plan would pay $20 a month as well as a co-pay when they go to the doctor. They call the plan ‘Mississippi Cares.’

The hospitals win because they are already having to pick up the tab when patients can’t pay their medical bills and emergency rooms can’t turn away anyone no matter their financial status. Under ‘Mississippi Cares,’ the hospitals would finally get paid with expanded Medicaid. If parents had medical coverage, they could go to a family doctor and quit clogging emergency rooms with non-emergencies simply because emergency rooms are the only place they can go to see a doctor without paying.

And maybe Mississippi could get out of 50th place in healthcare without it costing taxpayers the $100 million we can’t afford.

Now, will this work? I have no idea, but none of us will have an idea if we don’t at least give it a good discussion and quit dismissing Medicaid extension with no more explanation than “I said no”– that reasoning works on six-year-olds.

But, I think over the past year Mississippi has proved we’re not a bunch of six-year-olds and if the people we’ve elected to take on the tough issues keep dismissing them, then we can probably expect to see those issues show up on the ballot as referendums.

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