Those who were pronouncing Obamacare a virtual corpse on thin life support, waiting to be buried, are suddenly mighty quiet.
They realized from the 7.2 million number posted March 31, when the first signup period ended to get health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), they had been trounced. What’s more, the message writ large was the health care reform act is here to stay.
Republican leadership in Mississippi still seems content to ignore what’s happening on the health care reform front.
We’ll see before too long. Remember, the Supreme Court, while weakening the act in other ways, upheld the “individual mandate” requiring everyone to have health care coverage that meets certain standards. The court didn’t exempt Mississippi.
But the court on the assumption that states were responsible enough to broaden their Medicaid program to cover their working poor – generously subsidized by federal funds under ACA – left Medicaid expansion a state option.
Republican governors, seeing a way to scuttle Obamacare, lined up to reject expanding their Medicaid program. Mississippi’s Phil Bryant, of course, was in the front rank. Bryant and his GOP cohorts, its obvious to thousands of religious leaders and medical professionals in Mississippi, while having failed in their goal to scuttle President Obama’s signature law, have succeeded only in denying organized health care coverage to 300,000 of the state’s working poor.
A Gallup poll released April 7 showed the rate of uninsured Americans nationally – the primary target of the health care reform law when it was enacted in 2010 – has been reduced from a high of 18 percent in mid-2013 to a new low of 14.5 percent in March.
When the March 31 report from the Obama administration showed that the program had topped its 7 million goal, skeptics such as Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly and his crew were calling the numbers “fraud” so their audience would still believe they were right to predict Obamacare would fail.
While Mississippi’s Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, a Republican, had advocated having a state-run insurance exchange through which health insurance companies could offer citizens a menu of policy choices, Bryant in a last-minute move nixed Chaney’s proposal.
Because the state is seriously medically underserved, only two insurance carriers offered policies in the exchange. Neither was Blue Cross-Blue Shield which is the dominant carrier in the state. While the final figure on how many Mississippians got coverage by March 31 have not been released, the number is expected to be in the range of 36,000 to 40,000, putting the state among the lowest in the nation.
On the eve of the deadline, two of the state’s Republican delegation in Congress – Sen. Roger Wicker and Rep. Gregg Harper – were still predicting Obamacare’s disaster in interviews on Mississippi Public Radio. It is notable that both Wicker and Harper get highly subsidized government sponsored medical coverage for both themselves and their families. How about the “little” people back home who are some of the nation’s poorest and most unhealthy?
Syndicated columnist Bill Minor has covered Mississippi politics since 1947. Contact him through Ed Inman at email@example.com.