Our View: Let's show Mississippi cares




Mississippi cares. 


In some instances, that's a topic for debate. 


Since the 2010 inception of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Mississippi has been one of 14 states to decline an opportunity to provide low-paid workers with health insurance as part of the program's Medicaid expansion. 


The Republican leadership has repeatedly rejected Medicaid expansion out of hand on the grounds that the state could not afford its share of the match required under the federal program. Yet in the decade since the program was expanded in other states, Mississippi's Medicaid expenses have skyrocketed from $258 million to $840 million. 


Meanwhile, in states where Medicaid has been expanded, it has not only provided healthcare for millions of working Americans, but has proved to be a boost to the economy, creating jobs in the medical field as the demand for services soar for those who otherwise would not have affordable access to care. A report by the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program (MHAP) indicates Medicaid expansion would generate 20,000 new jobs and produce $14 billion in new economic activity. 


So what if there was a way those 300,000 uninsured working Mississippians could have health insurance without the 10 percent match from the state? 


The Mississippi Hospital Association has developed a plan it feels does just that. 


With as many as 31 rural hospitals facing the possibility of bankruptcy, the MHA has a direct vested interest in expanding Medicaid. 


For the MHA it's not a question of politics: it's a matter of survival. 


The MHA's plan is called Mississippi Care. 


Under the plan, those receiving the expanded Medicaid and hospitals would share the cost of the 10-percent match. Participants would pay a $20 monthly fee and a $100 co-pay for hospital visits. The hospitals would cover the rest of the costs, which would be a fraction of the $600 million in uncompensated care annually the MHA says hospitals are currently stuck with. 


The MHA has been working on the plan for about a year and is now actively seeking the political support it needs. That means convincing Republicans, who control all three branches of the state government, to drop their objections to the plan the MHA carefully describes as "Medicaid Reform" rather than "Medicaid Expansion." 


It's worth noting that two of the three Republican candidates for Governor - Bill Waller and Robert Foster - have said they favor Medicaid reform along the lines of what the MHA is proposing. 


However, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the perceived front-runner remains opposed to expansion/reform. 


If the politics can be taken out of the equation - as it certainly should be - we are hard-pressed to find an serious objection to Mississippi Care. 


It checks all the boxes, improving the health of our citizens and the heath of our economy with no significant cost to taxpayers. 


This is a much needed step forward in proving that Mississippi does, indeed, care.



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