OUR OPINION: Medicaid options should stay on legislative table

By NEMS Daily Journal

Tuesday’s lengthy legislative hearing about potential expansion of Mississippi’s Medicaid program appears to confirm reports of discussions about ways a bipartisan agreement might be reached to cover additional thousands of Mississippians eligible for the low-income government health insurance program.
It’s estimated that 300,000 Mississippians, many of them what’s called “the working poor” who cannot afford or do not have access to business-based health insurance, could be eligible under terms of the federal Affordable Care Act.
Gov. Phil Bryant, who is on record strongly in opposition, interestingly is engaged in conversation with some health industry groups and apparently some legislators about an expansion or alternatives.
Monday’s hearing attracted many advocates of expansion, not because it is an Obama-supported plan but because it is seen as a preferred alternative to further increases in uncompensated care dumped on Mississippi hospitals, who then pass on costs to insured consumers to recover their losses.
Under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), states have the option of broadening eligibility for Medicaid – the main federal/state health insurance program for the poor, elderly, blind and disabled. If Mississippi exercised that option, the additional 300,000 who would become eligible for coverage would join the 641,000 already enrolled.
Under the proposed expansion, for the first three years the feds would foot 100 percent of the bill, with the federal share declining to 90 percent in 2020.
We believe conversations should be expanded in Mississippi to include the major private-sector insurance agencies in Mississippi dealing with health care coverage. Their views and experience with large institutional and government coverage could be insightful moving forward. The private sector stands to remain a major player in coverage under Medicaid expansion as well as under a state health insurance exchange, which would facilitate sales of coverage to the uninsured – at least those who can afford it.
As a matter of business, uncompensated coverage is balanced when someone else’s coverage rises in price.
At some point, the issue of expansion must be severed from political ideology, which clouds decisions involving what’s best for citizens.