Republican leadership in Mississippi are holding firm that there is no need for Medicaid expansion in the state. Senate Medicaid Committee Chairman Senator Brice Wiggins says the Mississippi Division of Medicaid is on an upward trend and at this point expansion is unnecessary.
“There are people who don’t know why we need to [expand medicaid],” said Wiggins. “The deficit that we have had for 20 years in Medicaid, Director Snyder came in and said we’re not going to have one so that was great. The numbers of people on Medicaid are down, the economy is improving, the health issues that we use with Medicaid are improving, the managed care companies who are charged with managing the Medicaid beneficiaries are much more engaged now and are participating in the program with providers. We are on an upward trend and I think that people are asking, why is it necessary at this point.”
Democrats have said that an expansion of the program is needed as rural hospitals are closing across Mississippi. Four hospitals have closed in the past five years and five more are threatening closure. Expanding Medicaid would ensure that Mississippians continue to have access to local trauma centers and proper healthcare, however, Wiggins said the hospitals need to work it out on their own.
“One group that does have issues are the hospitals,” Wiggins said. “We have talked about that, but their issues are more of a function of antiquated laws and needing to adapt to the changing healthcare environment.”
While Republicans say an expansion of Medicaid will not be happening, any time soon, the decision to do so began several years ago.
“The Governor led the charge back in 2013 not to expand Medicaid because the state still has to come up with the state share, and if the taxpayers are paying the state’s share of Medicaid, that could amount to $100 million a year that the state has got to come up with,” said GOP Chairman Lucien Smith. “We already, as the Democrats will tell you, don’t have enough money for everything they want to spend money on now.”
Smith went on to question where the money would come from if an expansion were to happen.
“Where does the $100 million to pay the state share come from?” Smith said. “If the taxpayers are paying for it? Does it come out of the Highway Patrol? You could cut the Highway Patrol. Does it come out of education? You could cut education. The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that the Republicans look at how much money they have to spend and they spend it. The Democrats figure out how much money they want to spend and then they figure out where they can go and get it.”