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Lawmakers Consider Medicaid Expansion: Religions, Businesses Weigh In

— May 2, 2024

Mississippi legislators grapple with Medicaid expansion as third parties mount a public campaign.

Mississippi, the poorest state in the U.S., is at a crossroads. Lawmakers are considering Medicaid expansion, a policy that could extend health insurance coverage to hundreds of thousands of residents, but debate continues over the details and scope of the program.

Powerful business groups in Mississippi have backed Medicaid expansion, urging legislators to prioritize the well-being of the state’s workforce. The Mississippi Economic Council, Mississippi Manufacturers Association, and the Business and Industry Political Education Committee jointly emphasized the economic benefits of a healthy population.

The group wrote in a joint letter to House Speaker Jason White, “Access to healthcare is not just about individual health, but about the well-being of our entire community. It means a healthier population, a healthier workforce, and an improved quality of life, all of which contribute to stronger Mississippi communities.”

The crux of the debate lies in the extent of coverage. The House passed a bill extending Medicaid to those earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level, aligning with the maximum allowed under federal law. The Senate, however, proposed a more limited plan, capping eligibility at 100% of the poverty level. This translates to significantly fewer Mississippians gaining coverage under the Senate plan, with potentially higher costs for the state due to a lower federal funding match.

Lawmakers Consider Medicaid Expansion: Religions, Businesses Weigh In
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Religious leaders and advocacy groups have mounted a public campaign urging lawmakers to adopt the House’s more comprehensive plan. They argue that full expansion, with its higher federal match, is not only the most economically sound option but also a moral imperative. They highlight Mississippi’s dismal health outcomes, ranking last in most health indicators, and emphasize the need to ensure access to healthcare for all residents.

Rev. Reginal Buckley of the Baptist General Convention of Mississippi recently told a crowd at a rally on the southern steps of the Mississippi State Capitol Building, “We come together this afternoon as people of faith, believing that God wants all of his children to have a whole life, an abundant life, a healthy life. A life that is whole spiritually and a life that is whole physically. As a state that is proud of its pro-life stance, it is only fitting that this legislature now leans into the opportunity to make it possible for all Mississippians across this state to have full access to healthcare.”

Negotiations are underway between House and Senate representatives to reconcile the differing proposals. Policy analysts have proposed a compromise plan offering subsidized private insurance through the state exchange for those between 100% and 138% of the poverty level. This approach aims to maximize coverage while potentially addressing Republican concerns about work requirements.

Adding another layer of complexity, Governor Tate Reeves, a Republican, remains opposed to Medicaid expansion. He has voiced concerns about government dependency and potential strain on hospitals. If a compromise bill reaches his desk, a veto is a possibility. Lawmakers, however, could override a veto with a two-thirds vote in both chambers.

With the business community, religious leaders, and advocacy groups united behind full expansion, Mississippi lawmakers face intense pressure to prioritize the health needs of their constituents. The coming weeks will be crucial as negotiations progress and the fate of Medicaid expansion in Mississippi hangs in the balance.


Business Leaders Urge Legislators Mulling Medicaid Expansion To Improve Access To Health Care

Advocates push for full Medicaid expansion as Mississippi legislators enter negotiations

Religious leaders urge lawmakers to fully expand Medicaid in Mississippi

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