By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The Senate took only minutes Wednesday to pass legislation that could be used to expand Medicaid later in the session.
The Republican leadership of the House had tried to prevent any bill containing the code section that could be amended to expand Medicaid from coming to the floor of that chamber.
The legislation that passed the Senate on Wednesday without a dissenting vote would re-authorize the federal-state program that provides health care to more than 600,000 elderly, disabled, poor pregnant women and poor children.
But the legislation is written in such a way that it could be amended to allow the state to opt into the Medicaid expansion that is part of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, praised the leadership of the Senate for keeping the language in the bill.
“They had the wisdom and insight to include the code section so when the bill comes here to the marketplace of ideas we can discuss the issue. That is all we have asked,” Holland said.
Under the federal law, Medicaid can be expanded to cover people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level or about $15,000 per year.
Many Republican leaders have said Mississippi cannot afford to participate in the expansion because by 2020 the state will have to pay 10 percent of the costs. For the first two years, the federal government pays all the costs of the expansion and then it starts stepping down to 90 percent by 2020.
Many Democrats say the state cannot afford to reject the huge infusion of federal funds to provide coverage to a group of people who currently do not have insurance – primarily the working poor. It is estimated that the expansion would cover an additional 300,000 Mississippians.
In a statement, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate, said, “I’m proud of the Senate today for reauthorizing the agency without expanding Medicaid. The rules and regulations from Washington are not complete, and Mississippi taxpayers cannot afford Medicaid expansion under Obamacare.”