March 4, 2014 9:58:07 AM
JACKSON -- Medicaid expansion is one of the biggest issues Mississippi lawmakers are failing to address this year, the chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus said Monday.
Sen. Kenny Wayne Jones, D-Canton, said he doesn't expect a last-minute push to add more people to the government health insurance program.
With just more than a month left in the session, Jones said debating Medicaid expansion would take too long.
"You open up that can, it's going to take a long time before you close it again," he said.
He spoke at a forum sponsored by the Mississippi State University's Stennis Institute of Government and the Capitol press corps.
Under the health care overhaul President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010, states may provide Medicaid to people making as much as 138 percent of the federal poverty level, about $15,000 a year for one person. In Mississippi now, the income cutoff is about $5,500 for one person, and many able-bodied adults are not eligible for Medicaid coverage regardless of how little they earn.
Mississippi is among about two dozen states that have rejected the expansion. Gov. Phil Bryant and Republican leaders of the Mississippi House and Senate say they don't trust promises of federal funding.
About 644,000 of Mississippi's nearly 3 million residents already are enrolled in Medicaid. Advocates for the working poor say expanding Mississippi's Medicaid program to another 200,000 to 300,000 residents could bring billions of federal dollars to one of the poorest states in the nation, making health care more readily available and supporting jobs in hospitals and clinics.
On Feb. 20, the House voted 64-52 against an attempt to expand Medicaid. It was offered by Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, who pointed out that the state accepts federal money for transportation and other big-ticket items with no long-term guarantee that the money will always be available.
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