Bobby Harrison: Experts Say Medicaid Expansion Still Mississippi’s Best Option As Build Back Better Vote Looms

Bobby harrison

TThe state would do better to expand Medicaid even if the federal Build Back Better bill that would provide health care coverage to Mississippi’s poor becomes law, according to a diverse group of health care advocates.

Among the provisions of the $ 1.75 trillion Build Back Better legislation, which was passed by the United States House last week and will be the subject of a close vote in the Senate in the coming days, are a “workaround” language to provide health care coverage primarily to the working poor in the 12 states, including Mississippi, that have not extended Medicaid.

But groups like the Mississippi Hospital Association and the Mississippi Center for Justice still maintain that it would be to the state’s financial benefit to expand Medicaid. A provision in the Build Back Better bill increases federal match from 90% to 92% for the existing Medicaid program, meaning Mississippi could earn hundreds of millions more in federal funds if state leaders choose to develop oneself.

“Building back better is not a panacea,” said Vangela M. Wade, president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice. “The provisions that close the coverage gap are only temporary. Yes, it is a victory for the workers of the Mississippian, but it is fleeting. Mississippi lawmakers must enact the expansion of Medicaid at the state level. “

Wade continued, “For struggling states like Mississippi, the financial incentives to expand Medicaid are huge… We are in a position to greatly benefit both the overall health and economic well-being of our state. The expansion of Medicaid is obvious.

In an attempt to close the health care coverage gap, Build Back Better allows people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty line – which works out to $ 17,774 per year for an individual or $ 24,040 for an individual. couple – to get health insurance at no cost through health insurance scholarships established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

The federal government would pay all the costs of health care coverage for the poor in the Build Back Better legislation.

Mississippi is one of 12 predominantly southern states that have refused to expand Medicaid. It is estimated that the expansion would cover between 150,000 and 300,000 Mississippians, mostly the working poor. The federal government in recent months has increased financial incentives for all 12 states.

While state leaders, led by Governor Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, maintain that the state cannot afford expansion despite studies, several studies by leading economic experts show that the expansion of Medicaid would indeed pay off while significantly helping both the economy and the Mississippi treasury. .

Tim Moore, chief executive of the Mississippi Hospital Association, said he applauds the provisions of the Build Back Better legislation providing greater health care coverage for Mississippians, but the state will still be penalized if Medicaid is not extended.

Under the legislation as it is currently drafted, hospitals in Mississippi would lose an estimated $ 300 million in federal funds intended to help them pay for unpaid care or care for those without insurance and no do not have the capacity to pay for care. The loss of funds for unpaid care could be seen as “a hammer” in trying to convince the last 12 states to expand Medicaid.

“While we are very supportive of increasing access to coverage for all Mississippians, it should not come at the expense of hospitals in our communities that continue to care for large numbers of children, poor, disabled and elderly, ”Moore said.

The Build Back Better legislation increases the rate of consideration paid by the federal government for the costs of treating people covered by the Medicaid expansion from 90% to 92%, resulting in additional savings for the state.

“We can implement a plan (through the expansion of Medicaid) that is more descriptive of the needs of Mississippians or our taxes can fund the federal plan. For true conservative Mississippians, I think the choice is clear, ”Moore said.

The Build Back Better legislation also includes a provision that requires 12 months of postpartum coverage for poor mothers participating in the Medicaid program. Temporarily, the federal government requires all state Medicaid programs to provide 12 month coverage. Building back better would extend this federal mandate. Prior to the federal mandate, Mississippi Medicaid offered 60 days of postpartum coverage.

Mississippi has the highest infant mortality rate in the country with 9.07 deaths per 1,000 births, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mississippi also has the 19th highest maternal mortality rate with 20.8 deaths per 100,000 births, according to a study published by USA Today in 2019.

Building Back Better would also improve federal funding for people with health coverage through ACA exchanges.

United States Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat and the only member of the Mississippi congressional delegation to vote for Build Back Better, said, “The Biden administration has once again delivered on Mississippi’s expectations. I had the honor of voting for legislation that presents enormous opportunities for our state. Now the Senate has an opportunity to support the Build Back Better Act, and I hope it will. Not just for the good of our state, but for the whole country. “

The bill also includes an extension of the child tax credit, expanded access to home and community care for needy seniors, tax cuts for low wages, expanded access to child care services. , paid leave for medical and family emergencies, universal preschool and funds to fight climate change.

Mississippi Today senior reporter Bobby Harrison covers Mississippi state politics, government and legislature. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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Julio V. Miller