Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann set a surprising goal for the 2022 legislative session with a single sentence in his speech last week at the Neshoba County Fair.
“The time for simply saying ‘no’ to our options for working Mississippians has passed,” Hosemann said. Though he didn’t say so directly, the lieutenant governor only could have been referring to Mississippi’s steadfast refusal to consider expansion of its Medicaid program.
Hosemann did not stop there: “When a cancer diagnosis can bankrupt a family, we have a responsibility to help. Further, no Mississippian should be further than 30 minutes from an emergency room.”
His mention of three proposals for medical care — help for the working poor, help for those with costly, life-threatening illnesses, and a review of emergency care locations — are easy to talk about. But with Republicans like Hosemann firmly in control of the House, Senate and the governor’s office, and having made clear their opposition to increased medical spending, this is not a battle to be won quickly — if at all.
The case to expand the Medicaid program for lower-income residents is the easiest to make, even though it causes the greatest resistance, probably because it’s so closely tied to Democratic president Barack Obama.
Basically, the federal government will pay 90% of the cost of expanding Medicaid to low-wage workers who do not have private medical insurance. Mississippi and 11 other states that have declined the offer, saying it cannot afford to put more money into the program. Even a more recent sweetener to increase the federal share of existing Medicaid coverage got refused.
What this means is that, over the past decade, Mississippi has turned down $8 billion to $9 billion to give more of its residents greater access to medical care. That’s an awful lot of money to pass up.
Those who say Mississippi should not rely on federal aid are being selective. Recent coronavirus assistance to state and local governments, along with businesses and individuals, has produced a billion-dollar windfall for the state treasury. That one-time money doesn’t need to be spent on Medicaid, but nobody’s talking about giving it back to the feds, either.
Hosemann said at the Neshoba fair that he wants to make health care more accessible and more affordable.
“This fall, the Senate will hold hearings and dig deeper into the delivery of healthcare in our state,” he added. “From managed care, to scope of practice issues, to insurance options, everything is on the table.”
As it should be. We live in the poorest state in America, and we’ll never get off the bottom until we get more people educated, trained for a job and employed. Health care is a key element of this. People cannot work if they are sick.
Hosemann will need a lot of votes in Jackson to win any substantial victories. There is no guarantee of success, but he deserves credit for his willingness to address a difficult issue.
— Jack Ryan, Enterprise-Journal