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Medicaid Expansion is Governor Reeves’s Early Chance at Redemption

Mac Gordon

Donuts on Cake

Jonathan Tate Reeves, you are by all accounts a gentleman and a scholar. You are a graduate of Millsaps College, which prepares you to be both. You’re from high-quality people.

I know you consider yourself a Christian. I attended Jackson’s Galloway United Methodist Church with you in the early-to-mid 2000’s. You contributed in myriad ways to that sacred place.

But, Mr. Reeves, I remain disappointed in your decision not to expand the Medicaid health insurance program for our most vulnerable citizens, as I have written many times before. The good news is there’s plenty of time left in your second term to redeem yourself.

It appears that the Mississippi Legislature is going to give you an early chance at redemption —- a chance to sign the bill expanding the program.

The House of Representatives has already set the table for you by overwhelmingly passing a (veto-proof) expansion. We’ll soon know what the seemingly recalcitrant Senate will do on this issue.

If passed by both chambers, you can do nothing and allow the bill to become law without your signature. That way, your mitts never touch what you ridiculously call “welfare.”

Or, you can veto the bill and watch the lawmakers (likely) override it.

Your grievous error of not fully expanding Medicaid to include more of our needy citizens is why I believe you should seek redemption.

By not enlarging the program to include upwards of 250,000 more working poor, disabled and unhealthy Mississippi adults and children, they are denied an opportunity to improve their lives in myriad ways.

Your decision has cost the state billions in revenue and program savings annually (amounts vary by sources) that could help more financially-struggling community hospitals remain viable and keep more people healthy and working.

Mississippi is by far the nation’s poorest and unhealthiest state. Our hospitals treat many people without private health insurance for medical services. Paying out-of-pocket is impossible, thus this uncompensated care costs the hospitals dearly.

Medicaid would be the sick’s safety net and create a vibrant revenue stream for these desperate hospitals. An analysis by the Commonwealth Fund, a healthcare think-tank, says expansion “is a better deal (for the state) than ever before, in addition to increasing insurance coverage … (resulting) in zero net cost to the state for more than six years.”

Commonwealth also says: “Most states will have a hard time saying no … because the federal government has pledged to pay unusually high matching rates for people who are newly eligible. For the first three years, the federal government will pay all of the costs for people who gain eligibility … The matching rate will gradually decline after that but is not supposed to ever fall below 90 percent.”

Governors in 40 other states have expanded Medicaid to one degree or another. Many are Republicans like you. This isn’t political, although it certainly seems so along with most everything else these days. Can 40 other governors all be wrong?

Georgia has recently expanded Medicaid, but only to those people who have agreed to work or take job training or college classes. The work requirement has been slow in developing, but at least two other states, Kansas and Arkansas, are also considering such a plan.

Mississippi could try a similar program. It is time, Governor, for you to do the right thing and get past this issue that has divided our state’s people for too long.

Mr. Reeves, please go ahead and work out an arrangement on this while you can. You don’t even have to wait on the Legislature. There’s time for you to beat them to the punch.

Donuts on Cake
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