A recent poll told us what most people already knew and only a handful of state leaders truly fear: Expanding Medicaid to help bolster Mississippi’s suffering health care system is popular among voters.
The Mississippi Today/Siena College poll found that 66% of Mississippians support “lawmakers voting to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid.” That’s two-thirds of the state’s population. In an election, that would be what we call a landslide.
Given that Mississippi is one of the most conservative states in the nation, having two-thirds of the population supporting anything means it has to be bipartisan. That’s exactly what the poll showed. Eighty-two percent of Democrats were in favor, alongside 52% of Republicans.
Of course, this comes as no surprise to anyone who has been following the Medicaid expansion debate. Over the years, support for expansion has grown across the country. Most of the earlier adopters were blue states, and the results were good. A few red states joined in, and the results were good. Then a few more red states joined in, and the results were good.
In fact, in every state that has adopted Medicaid expansion, results have been good.
And here’s the kicker: Not every state expanded in the same way. Some states simply took the federal funds, expanded the program as is and moved on. And the results were good.
Other states created public and private partnerships, where private insurance companies and hospitals helped pay the increase in the state-match to the federal funds. And the results were good.
Anyone seeing a trend here?
So, where were the results bad? Well, that’s the problem with those arguing against Medicaid expansion. Over the past nine years, 39 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid, and not a single one has faced dire fiscal consequences as a result.
Here in Mississippi, Medicaid expansion enjoys bipartisan support among lawmakers. Mississippi Today polled state lawmakers on their support. Just 18% of House members and 38% of state senators opposed Medicaid expansion. Yet even some of those said they would still consider expansion if it included public-private partnerships like in Arkansas, Arizona, Kentucky and Indiana.
In fact, the two biggest opponents of Medicaid expansion have been Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn.
The speaker is retiring, and his likely successor — Rep. Jason White — while opposed to outright expansion has said he likely would support a hybrid approach.
“Whatever we’re going to do to fix it and fix this issue with folks that are working full time, 40 hours a week or more and don’t have health insurance, it’s going to come from the people in this room because my Republican colleagues are not going to come from a straight up Medicaid expansion package. But they would consider something if the private business would get involved in that conversation, whatever it is,” White told the Daily Journal in a March interview.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann has never endorsed Medicaid expansion either, but he has expressed sentiments. Hosemann routinely talks about the need to increase access to health care for the working poor, which is what Medicaid expansion would do.
As for Reeves, the office of governor doesn’t matter in legislative matters. Yes, he could veto it, and who knows if the votes would be there. But first he has to be re-elected. He will face Democrat Brandon Presley in the November general election. Presley is making Medicaid expansion a key tenet of his campaign; Reeves is not shying away from his hard opposition to it. That single issue won’t decide the race, but it could have an impact.
And after another year of debating Medicaid expansion, one can only theorize that support will continue to grow. If history is any indication, that’s exactly what will happen. Perhaps by the time the next legislative session rolls around in January 2024, new blood in the Legislature will finally do the right — not to mention popular — thing.
Tupelo Daily Journal, May 3
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