SuperTalk Mississippi

Opinion: Now is the time for Mississippi to expand Medicaid

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It’s no secret Mississippi hospitals are struggling mightily. 

This is a topic we’ve been talking about for nearly two years now as waves of layoffs continue to storm through the state’s healthcare system while various hospitals have been forced to close down specialty departments due to the ongoing crisis. 

This past legislative session, lawmakers promised to implement a plan they said would serve as both a short-term and long-term solution for Mississippi’s hospital crisis. While a plan was passed and signed into law, it has since proved of minimal help and even flawed in some regards. 

If you look back at the months (and even years) leading into the most recent legislative session, medical officials have made numerous appearances on radio and TV stations across the state. They’ve sat down with print media reporters. And there was a general consensus among them all – hospitals are in the worst shape they have ever been in, and while it is not a save-all silver bullet, Medicaid expansion is the next best step Mississippi can take. 

I couldn’t agree with them more. 

Fast-forward to just last week when 29,000 residents were cut from Medicaid division following a post-pandemic state review, officials are warning that number could skyrocket to 150,000 losing benefits if nothing is done. 

So, what’s standing in the way of Mississippi and Medicaid expansion?

The answer is actually simple: the political polarization of the whole deal. If you ask conservatives, most will call it “Obamacare” and say Democrats are seeking to enforce a socialist healthcare policy across America. Some will say the state cannot afford the 10 percent that isn’t matched by the federal government. 

If you ask Democrats, they will simply tell you “Republicans.” They might even argue that while the idea of expansion was solidified under Barack Obama, it was actually a brainchild of Ronald Reagan. They will also quickly tell you that expanding Medicaid would give Mississippi an estimated $1.61 billion in the first year and eventually save the state money within five years. 

And I’ll be completely candid with you in this column. I have been labeled largely because of my background and work experience in Washington, D.C. for over a decade, but it just seems too practical to expand Medicaid. We have hospitals dying, and we are actively denying people what I consider to be a human right.

I understand Republicans hate the idea of receiving federal money, but what most don’t realize is that Mississippi relies on the federal government more than 47 other states in the union with 45 percent of the budget for Fiscal Year 2023 being matched by the feds. So, why not accept a little additional help from the people up in Washington? 

I also understand that Mississippi elected officials love jobs, and many revolve campaigns around economic development. Expanding Medicaid would create 20,000 new jobs, according to one report. Therefore, every parameter will be reached: healthcare coverage, restoring hospitals, and jobs. 

As we head into a critical election year and an even more critical legislative session, I truly hope state leaders can come together and provide these benefits for the citizens of Mississippi. Regardless of political party rhetoric, Medicaid expansion is a step in the right direction if you just look at it objectively. Similar to Hurricane Katrina – yes, the healthcare crisis has gotten that bad – we have to take the necessary actions to ensure a better future for Mississippi.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of SuperTalk Mississippi Media.

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