RONNIE MUSGROVE: Mississippi deserves whole story on health care

By Ronnie Musgrove

On almost any major economic development project the state considers, a cost-benefit analysis is customarily done to determine whether the proposal will create jobs and makes good economic sense. Mississippi, under Gov. Barbour, determined it made sense to spend up to $413 million for 2,000 direct jobs to bring the Toyota plant to Blue Springs. Toyota then invested $800 million in Mississippi.
In 2002, we determined it made sense to spend $363 million for 5,300 direct jobs when we brought Nissan to Canton. Nissan then invested $1.9 billion in Mississippi. I do not believe there were any votes against the Toyota or Nissan projects in the Legislature.
In other words, every member of the legislature, Democrat and Republican, was willing to spend more han $750 million for 7,300 direct jobs.
Regardless of our political beliefs with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), the state should do two things before a decision is made to support or to fight the proposal:
1) In addition to a cost analysis, the financial benefit and number of jobs that would be created for our residents should be determined. Arkansas has weighed the benefit against the cost of implementing the Act (including the administrative costs to Medicaid) and determined that the State would gain $372 million above the cost for the first six years. Mississippians deserve “the whole story” and to know what the financial benefit would be to our state. I understand the Milliman Company looked at expenses but did not analyze the economic benefits/impact to Mississippi of the ACA. According to the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, for every $1 billion spent on health care, more than 12,000 jobs are created, meaning many jobs could be created for our people.
With unemployment going up in Mississippi while the unemployment rates are going down in neighboring states, we should at least look at the number of jobs to be created so an informed decision can be made. The Mississippi Development Authority and local economic developers should be involved, and all Mississippians should know the economic benefits or economic downsides of the bill.
2) There have been many misrepresentations from both sides of the aisle about the requirements of the ACA. The state should have an independent group look objectively at the ACA and be honest about what it does and does not do. If there are offensive provisions that would be bad for the State, then we would know and factor those into our decision, or seek a waiver of those provisions. We would also have an unbiased, reputable group reporting the truth to our people rather than partisan screaming for political purposes.
There are strong feelings on all sides of the issue, but one thing is certain. Many Mississippians are paying far too much for health care, and thousands of others who work every day are without coverage. Shouldn’t we at least know the facts before we make a decision?
Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, served as governor of Mississippi from 1999 to 2003. Contact him via Shannon McMullan at smcmullan@cctb.com.