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By House Speaker Phillip Gunn
The Democratic leadership in the Mississippi House of Representatives made a decision during the 2013 Regular Legislative Session to vote against appropriating funds for the current Medicaid program twice. Additionally, they voted twice against reauthorizing the technical bill that gives guidelines for operating Medicaid. They did all of this under the guise of wanting to vote on expansion. I said on the day that they did this, and I will say it again today: this is misguided and irresponsible.
Because of the Democratic Leadership’s actions, we are faced with shutting down a program that provides health care for those who are elderly, blind, and too young to take care of themselves. To use these individuals as pawns is reckless. The Republicans in the House supported reauthorizing and funding the current program four times.
I do not support the expansion of government in any fashion. Expanding government and ultimately raising taxes to pay for it is not how I believe government should operate.
Expansion of the Mississippi Division of Medicaid under Obamacare is a massive expansion of government. Expansion would place an additional 300,000 Mississippians into a health care system paid for by the federal and state levels of government. Passing tax increases or cutting vital government services such as education, corrections, mental health, or public safety is the only way to pay for this expansion. There is no other choice.
It is projected that Medicaid expansion would cost the State of Mississippi somewhere in the neighborhood of an additional ONE BILLION DOLLARS between now and 2020. As it stands right now, the legislature struggles every year to make our budget work. There is no way we can responsibly expand Medicaid knowing that our state cannot and will not be able afford it. By refusing to expand the Medicaid program, we are protecting the state’s budget from future changes that will come down from Washington in the form of unfunded mandates. State leaders cannot assume that the federal government will pay 90 percent of the costs for the new enrollees.
Beyond the projected costs to the state’s budget, we continue to receive information from Washington about implementation and misconceptions surrounding Obamacare. It concerns me that the impacts of the federal sequestration cuts are beginning to trickle down into Mississippi’s economy. This will certainly have an impact on budget writers in the 2014 Legislative Session. We clearly do not have all the facts needed to make a sound financial decision regarding Medicaid expansion.
No one can deny that we do have a health care problem in our country and state. With increasing health care costs, we need reform to ensure that health care is affordable. However simply having the government pick up the tab is not an option for me.
The discussion we need to have should focus on how we solve the health care dilemma with innovation and private sector involvement. Sure, the easiest thing would be for the government to only pay for people who don’t currently have insurance, but what does that say to those who don’t fall into the qualifying economic brackets? Our state has many hardworking folks who give it their best shot every day to do what is right. They do not want to add to the burden of the state. These people need help, too. Should we just add them on the government plan as well? Where does expansion stop?
Given that the Democratic leadership made this ill-advised move during the session, they have now come forward with an alternative plan to expand Medicaid in our state. It looks much like the Arkansas plan, and it touts “free money” to fund the program. There is NEVER free money when it comes to government programs. Who do you think pays for free government programs? It’s simple, the taxpayers.
We are at a pivotal point in the history of our country. We can have a limited government that encourages innovation and economic prosperity from the private sector, which I support, or we can have a more robust government that says bureaucrats dictate the answers. We cannot have both.
I will continue to stand on the side of smaller government and lower taxes. I will also continue to stand on the side of entrepreneurs and hard-working Mississippians who want to stand on their own two feet. I encourage our citizens to work hard to find prosperity and not turn to the government to find it. Government cannot create prosperity; government can only help create an environment where people can succeed.