Bryant trusts no part of federal health overhaul



By Emily Wagster Pettus

Associated Press

JACKSON — If there’s one thing Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant makes perfectly clear, it’s this: He doesn’t like the federal health overhaul.

Whether you call the law by its official name, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or by what Republican Bryant calls it, “Obamacare,” the governor says it’s too invasive and expensive.

During an interview with The Associated Press this past week, Bryant reiterated his opposition to the law, but in a way that raised almost as many questions as it answered.

Bryant said he thought that if Mississippi had set up a state-run health exchange, some low-level employees or volunteers with the exchange could unilaterally force the state to expand Medicaid, the longstanding federal-state health insurance program for the needy. This, despite the fact that the Legislature, which controls just about every aspect of what Medicaid offers or covers, has not voted for expansion.

“Nobody will tell me that’s not possible,” Bryant said.

An exchange is an online marketplace where people can buy health insurance. Under the health law signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 and mostly upheld by the Supreme Court in 2012, each state is required to either operate its own exchange or have the federal government do the job. A few states have exchanges that are run in partnership with the federal government.

Mississippi’s exchange is federally run, because of Bryant’s opposition to a state-run system.

On Oct. 1, exchanges opened nationwide, and people could start shopping for coverage that takes effect in January.

In each state, workers or volunteers called “navigators” are available to help people understand various levels of coverage available through an exchange. Among other things, a navigator will determine whether a consumer is eligible for a federal tax credit that will pay for part of the insurance policy. To qualify for the government subsidy, one person could have an income of up to $45,960 or a family of four could have an income of up to $94,200.

During the AP interview, Bryant said he thought if Mississippi had a state-run exchange, the navigators could unilaterally decide to sign people up for Medicaid, even if they earn too much money to qualify.

Regardless of the fact that the Legislature has not expanded Medicaid?

“Regardless of what the Legislature would have said,” Bryant said.

But how would that be possible?

“I have gotten no assurances that that would not be the case,” Bryant said.

Under the federal health law, states have the option to extend Medicaid coverage to people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 a year for one person. In Mississippi now, the income cutoff is about $5,500 for one person, and many able-bodied adults aren’t eligible for Medicaid coverage, regardless of how little they earn.

Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation. About 644,000 of the state’s nearly 3 million residents are enrolled in Medicaid. Earlier this year, Bryant and other Republicans blocked Democrats’ attempts to expand Medicaid to another 300,000 people.

The 2010 law says the federal government would pay 100 percent of medical expenses for newly qualified Medicaid enrollees from 2014 to 2017. The federal share would be reduced to 90 percent by 2020, with each state paying the balance.

Democrats say Mississippi is leaving billions of dollars on the table — and leaving the working poor uninsured — by refusing Medicaid expansion. Bryant points out that Mississippi’s Medicaid budget has grown exponentially in the past two decades, and he says Mississippi can’t afford to put more people on the program, even with the feds paying most of the cost.

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  • the_rocket

    Philbert has absolutely no idea how the PPAC works, or how the MS legislature works , for that matter. And this is our governor
    All he knows is that he will not take orders from a black man.

    Why not man up and admit it? Everyone see’s right through it, anyway.

    • barney fife

      ” … All he knows is that he will not take orders from a black man. … ‘
      That same sentiment is rampant throughout the Rep / Tea party. Glad I’m not the only one seeing it.
      Send Phundie Phil back to his pulpit.

  • Kevin

    If the GOP came up with the Affordable Health Care Act, then they’d be all for it. The fact that their party didn’t come up with it means they’re going to oppose it every step of the way. I know a lot of Republicans, after all I live in a very Republican state. Every Republican I meet doesn’t know a darn thing about the country or about politics. All they know is that democrats are bad and republicans are good. Their ideology blinds them to much else and Phil Bryant is no different.

  • guest

    Every time I hear Governor Bryant talk about the Affordable Health Care Act he misrepresents it and its functional role within the state. I find it very hard to believe that anyone that stupid could live as long as he has much less become Governor of a state – even Mississippi. I can only conclude that he is playing dumb to project his ideology at the expense of the people of Mississippi and their employers.

    The problem here in my opinion is the press who do not challenge his assertions or make him provide context to his funding claims. Besides at the end of the day what is the harm when the federal money runs out? It is not like Republicans have had a problem kicking people out of Medicaid before – they can just do it when the money runs out and then blame the Democrats.

  • Tupelo_Guy

    Bryant is not fit for Governor. He brings in manufacturing that are low-paying jobs. Some people don’t want to do manufacturing. We’re not China!


    Ya’ think Bryant is counting on poor people leaving the state?

    • Thile

      Like refugees from a war-torn country. Or that they all just die already.

    • guest

      You guys don’t understand the new Republicans – Bryant does not want the poor to leave the state he wants more poor people here. Poor people cannot go anywhere and are stuck to take whatever low paying job they can find. They will work for whatever job they can find for whatever they can get. After they gut the education system, social safety net and prevent people from having the tools to get out they will just feed them on a steady diet of rich people know better and are favored by God. If you are poor it is your fault and if you look for help you are a leech – accept what we pay you and work harder.

      One thing about these new corporate sponsored Republicans – they understand that debt and poverty mean control of the masses.