Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
Medicaid expansion, as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act, would create about 700 jobs and provide health care coverage to more than 7,900 in the three-county region of Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties, according to a study released Thursday.
The study, conducted by University of Alabama-Birmingham professors, was done for the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, which has been a proponent of expanding Medicaid. The study was released during a series of news conferences Thursday, including at the Link Centre in Tupelo.
David Becker, an associate professor in the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy, said during the news conference in Jackson the expansion would create 20,000 jobs annually statewide, create more than $2 billion in economic activity and provide health care coverage to about 222,000 Mississippians.
The Affordable Care Act allows states to expand Medicaid to cover people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – about $15,000 annually for an individual or about $32,000 for a family of four. During the first three years, starting this past January, the federal government would pay the entire cost of the expansion, minus some administrative expenses. After three years, the amount paid by the federal government would be reduced, ultimately to 90 percent in 2020 and after.
Mississippi is among at least 23 states where Republican political leaders are blocking Medicaid expansion. Gov. Phil Bryant, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker Philip Gunn, all Republicans, have said Mississippi can’t afford it.
When asked about the study, gubernatorial spokesman Mick Bullock said, “I am not familiar with the study you are referring to. However, with the health care rollout blunders and the information we continue to find out each day about the negative effects of Obamacare, Governor Bryant’s opposition has not wavered and, if anything, these realities have strengthened his position.”
State Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, who attended the news conference at the Jackson Medical Mall, said the state lost $1 billion in federal funds by not expanding Medicaid during the 2013 session – for the first year when the federal government paid all the costs.
“We have an opportunity here to not only create thousands of jobs, but to improve health care…,” Blount said. “Hopefully, we can put aside partisan politics.”
The study said that from 2014-2020, expansion would net a cumulative $848 million in state and local taxes instead of costing the state money. From 2020 on when the federal government is paying 90 percent of the costs instead of a larger amount, the net gain in local and state tax revenue would be about $34 million annually.
In 2020, for instance, the study says Mississippi will pay $167 million to draw down $1.22 billion in federal funds, But the infusion of money would have a direct economic impact on the medical community of $1.22 billion and an indirect impact of $764 million in new businesses created. The result, Becker said, would be the state receiving more in tax revenue than it paid to match the federal Medicaid funds.
The study broke the state down into 23 regions to look at direct impact to specific counties and communities.