PHIL BRYANT: The truths about ObamaCare in Mississippi

By Phil Bryant

The recent Supreme Court ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or more commonly called ObamaCare, has left many people asking what’s next – and what does it mean here in Mississippi.
While some people say ObamaCare will come as an economic boost with “free” money, the reality is simple: no money is free.
So let’s talk about the facts as they are in Mississippi.
During fiscal year 2012, the Mississippi Division of Medicaid – the agency in charge of operating most of the Medicaid program in Mississippi – required $3.62 billion in federal funds and $763 million in state funds to directly administer the Medicaid program. These figures don’t include funds used by other agencies to meet their own Medicaid program responsibilities.
That means the conservative total cost to operate the Medicaid program in Mississippi during fiscal year 2012 was more than $4.38 billion as of July of this year. Remember, federal tax dollars aren’t “free,” they are your tax dollars, so that’s more than $4.38 billion of your money spent on one year of Medicaid in Mississippi. This is without the expansions the Obama administration is attempting to force.
The federal government wants to give Medicaid to more people – more than what your money is already paying for.
The federal government also promised to initially pay 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion costs for the first three years of ObamaCare.
What you do not hear is how the cost burden increasingly shifts to Mississippi taxpayers.
According to a report requested by the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, the total cost to implement ObamaCare in Mississippi is more than $1.6 billion over seven years. This expansion could result in one in three Mississippians being on Medicaid, with an additional cost starting at $68 million and increasing to $427 million annually.
That’s a large burden for the Mississippi taxpayer to assume.
There are also hidden expansion costs. Increasing the Medicaid rolls will immediately result in increased administrative costs.
In Mississippi, those costs would be about $17 million the first year and $36 million the second year. The Mississippi Division of Medicaid estimates the administrative cost to the state for the first three years of Medicaid expansion is $81 million.
What’s more, these expansion costs will be added to the enormous amount of money Mississippi already spends on Medicaid.
In fiscal year 2012, for every one dollar Mississippi spent to administer the Medicaid program, it spent about three dollars on K-12 education. If we expand Medicaid, that ratio will get smaller very quickly.
Also in fiscal year 2012, Mississippi spent more than seven times as much money on the existing Medicaid program as we did on economic development and most of our state public safety efforts combined!
No matter on what side of the political spectrum you align yourself, when you look at the bottom line of a potential Medicaid expansion in Mississippi, it is clear we cannot afford this enormous burden.
It would rob our resources for education, public safety and job creation and could very well result in tax increases. Undoubtedly, it would compromise our state’s resources and leave us with a bill we cannot pay.
Mississippi can do better, and there are real solutions to improving health care.
To start, each of us must assume personal responsibility for our own health and our own choices. Lifestyles that includes regular exercise and proper diets can help shrink Mississippi’s obesity rate and the chronic diseases like diabetes that accompany it.
Activities like smoking erode our health, and we must do all in our power to fight the epidemic of teen pregnancy – an issue that has far-reaching consequences for our state.
At the core of improved health care is job creation. We must continue working to create an environment where businesses flourish so Mississippians can secure sound employment and fund their own health insurance. We should also purchase health insurance across state lines and work to lower insurance costs by pooling employees of small businesses.
Mississippi can and will do better. As governor, I will fight to protect our future – our education, our safety and our jobs – and that means that I will resist any effort to expand Medicaid in this state.
Phil Bryant, a former legislator, state auditor and lieutenant governor, was elected to his first term as Mississippi governor in 2011. Contact him at Mick.Bullock@governor.ms.gov.