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Senate Medicaid Committee passes expansion plan as Gov. Reeves pushes back

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Things are heating up once again in Mississippi over Medicaid expansion.

The Senate’s Medicaid Committee on Wednesday passed its expansion proposal in a 9-1 vote but was promptly met with resistance by Gov. Tate Reeves, who has stood in consistent opposition to what he calls an “extension of Obamacare.”

Under the Senate’s plan, residents between the ages of 19 and 64 up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level would be qualified for coverage. This differs from the proposal the House of Representatives sent to the other side of the capitol expanding care to those up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

A work requirement is attached to the Senate’s proposal as promised by Medicaid Committee chairman Sen. Kevin Blackwell. Those seeking coverage must work around 30 hours per week to become eligible for expanded care, with some exceptions. Between 80,000 to 100,000 Mississippians are expected to be eligible for Medicaid coverage under the proposal.

Reeves quickly took to social media to express his ire with the plan, essentially accusing it of being smoke and mirrors. The Republican governor alleged that a lesser number of people should be in the coverage gap than what the committee estimated. He also anticipated that fewer than half of those within the coverage gap would actually be working citizens.

Reeves objected to a few of the work requirement exceptions, including automatically qualifying those with a child under the age of six, caregivers of a direct relative, and those who are deemed by a medical professional to be unable to work for Medicaid coverage. The governor finds these exceptions rife with possibilities for people to exploit the government.

“The Devil is always in the details. And the details prove that this Senate bill is not for the ‘working poor,'” Reeves wrote. “It is welfare expansion to those able-bodied adults that could work but choose not to. The Senate bill is still bad policy. And so I will continue to do what I told the voters I would do — fight Obamacare Medicaid Expansion with every ounce of my being!”

Those in favor of expansion have long argued that it would be a step in solving Mississippi’s ongoing healthcare crisis as it would allow the state to help struggling hospitals, many of which are on the verge of full closure, monetarily. Proponents of the Senate’s plan contend that it would also help the working poor in the state.

Opponents of Medicaid expansion, such as Reeves, argue that it would not fix the issues at hand and that it would further increase dependency on federal assistance, or “welfare.” Some critics of expansion have conveyed their beliefs that working individuals eligible for coverage under the expansion model would ditch employer-provided insurance for Medicaid.

Last September, Reeves announced his own Medicaid reimbursement program in the state — one that did not expand the coverage group. The plan dubbed as the Mississippi Hospital Access Program provides direct payments to hospitals serving patients in the Mississippi Medicaid-managed care delivery system where care has continuously gone uncompensated en masse. To date, more than $658.2 million has been delivered to hospitals statewide through the program, though skeptics maintain that this plan does not help small hospitals.

The Senate has until April 10 to hold a floor vote on its Medicaid expansion legislation.

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