Mississippi Cares

The Mississippi Hospital Association has made public a plan it’s been privately pushing, with no luck, to Gov. Phil Bryant to expand Medicaid to the working poor.

The association calls it “Medicaid reform,” not “Medicaid expansion,” hoping that “reform” is more palatable to the muleheaded resistance of the state’s GOP leaders, who have sat on their hands while the state’s hospitals, especially in rural areas, suffer from the weight of too few patients with the capacity to pay.

The MHA plan says it can get over the Republicans’ main objection — namely that this poor state can’t afford to help more of its poor — by transferring the state’s small match to the beneficiaries and the hospitals.

The plan would require that the newly insured pay a modest “premium” of up to $20 a month plus $100 copay for some non-emergency visits to the hospital. That would cover roughly half the estimated $150 million annually the state would have to come up with to get $1.3 billion from the federal government. The hospitals themselves would cover the rest.

The plan, called Mississippi Cares, is reportedly modeled on the one implemented in Indiana while Vice President Mike Pence was its governor. Indiana is one of 36 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have taken the federal government up on its sweet offer to pay at least 90 percent of the cost of covering the uninsured.

It has been governmental malpractice for Mississippi to refuse to join them and thus pass on a program that would add thousands of well-paying jobs, help out working families who don’t make enough to buy insurance, and pull the state’s rural hospitals back from the brink.

Since 2013, Mississippi has seen five hospitals close, four more file for bankruptcy, with a couple of dozen others approaching the same dire condition. Close to home, the difference between Greenwood Leflore Hospital losing millions of dollars a year and having a small profit is arguably the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid.

It really shouldn’t be necessary for the beneficiaries and the hospitals to pick up the state’s proportionately small cost of expansion. Studies indicate that the economic activity that Medicaid expansion creates provides more than enough new tax dollars to cover a state’s share. They’ve also shown that states that have expanded Medicaid are doing better economically than those that haven’t.

If the hospital association’s proposal, however, can finally bring the GOP leaders to their senses, bring it on. If that’s still not good enough, the only recourse is for Mississippi voters to force the issue by whom they elect this year.

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