By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Opting out of Medicaid expansion will cost Mississippians and destabilize hospitals, according to a coalition of advocates.
“There is confusion about what the Affordable Care Act is for and what its provisions are,” said Jo Bradley of Smithville, who attended a forum in Tupelo on Thursday. “I would like to think if more people understood the economic impact on the community and its importance to health care … there would be a different level of support.”
The forum hosted by the Mississippi Health Care Access Coalition drew 40 people to the Link Centre. A forum also was held in Oxford on Thursday, and more are planned.
An estimated 300,000 Mississippians could gain health insurance if Medicaid is expanded to include those up to 137 percent of the federal poverty line as provided in the Affordable Care Act. The federal government would cover the entire cost of expansion for the first three years. By 2020, Mississippi would have to pick up 10 percent of the expansion cost.
Because of increased demand for services, Medicaid expansion is predicted to create more than 9,000 new jobs across Mississippi by 2020.
Significant reductions in Medicare reimbursements and disproportionate share payments – designed to help hospitals with high levels of uncompensated care – make it imperative that more Mississippians are covered by health care insurance.
“A lot of small hospitals in the state are going to have a challenge keeping their doors open,” said Gerald Wages, past chairman of the Mississippi Hospital Association.
Gov. Phil Bryant and the Mississippi legislature are in a stalemate over allowing debate on possible expansion and the reauthorization of Medicaid.
State Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said Gov. Phil Bryant cannot run Medicaid by executive order because it requires $130 million in tax levies that by the state constitution must be approved by the legislature.