Gov. Tate Reeves and Republican lawmakers who resist Medicaid expansion have for years said that Mississippi cannot afford to extend health-care coverage to the working poor.
They obviously don’t bother to do the math.
Other folks have, however, and they repeatedly show that expanding Medicaid — since the federal government foots most of the cost — pays for itself and then some.
For the next two years, if Mississippi were to drop its resistance, that “some” would come to hundreds of millions of dollars.
That’s because the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package recently signed into law by President Joe Biden includes an additional incentive — Republicans call it a “bribe” — to the dozen states that have stubbornly refused to expand the government insurance program.
If they will get on board, they will be eligible not just for the 90% federal match on this new category of enrollees, but also they will receive for the next two years a five-percentage-point bonus on those who are enrolled in traditional Medicaid.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on U.S. healthcare policy, particularly as it affects people of low income, ran the numbers of what this would mean for the holdout states.
For Mississippi, the net effect would be an estimated $400 million to the good in direct government outlays, not counting the indirect economic benefits of having that much additional money flowing through the state’s health care sector. Put another way, for every $1 that Mississippi were to spend to cover the new enrollees, it would save $2.38 on its cost of covering existing enrollees.
Even after the extra incentive goes away, the deal would still be sweet. Studies in nearby states have shown that the additional tax receipts produced by Medicaid expansion — because of the jobs and economic spinoffs that the infusion of new federal funding creates — are covering those states’ 10% share of the cost.
If Reeves and Mississippi lawmakers still aren’t convinced, the Mississippi Hospital Association has offered a plan to transfer the state’s cost of expansion to the hospitals and the new Medicaid beneficiaries — leaving the state treasury with almost nothing to pony up.
It’s as close as you can get to a “no lose” proposition, and still Mississippi’s political leadership says, “No thanks.” It would rather see that billion dollars a year — some of which, by the way, this state’s taxpayers are bankrolling — go elsewhere than to accept another Democratic-founded welfare-type program.
Maybe one could admire this dig-in-your-heels stand for self-sufficiency if Mississippi were such a go-it-alone place. It is not. Whenever a tornado or hurricane hit, we beg for federal aid to recover and rebuild. Whenever crop prices are low or yields or bad, we line up for federal subsidies. When COVID-19 hit, Mississippi didn’t turn back a dime of stimulus money from Washington.
We are a beneficiary state, not a benefactor state, getting well more from the federal government than we pay in federal taxes.
It is only when it comes to helping the poor or the near-poor that Mississippi’s pride — and prejudice — gets in the way.
This state’s stand on Medicaid expansion is hard-headed and hard-hearted. Maybe no amount of federal money can fix that condition.
Contact Tim Kalich, editor and publisher of the Greenwood Commonwealth, at 662-581-7243 or email@example.com.