Medicaid Expansion Debate

Governor Phil Bryant had this to say Wednesday,"We're cutting 85 million dollars out of education and national defense, yet the federal government is saying take this free federal money and expand to another 300,000 Mississippians on Medicaid. That does not make any financial sense."

The Medicaid expansion topic is resonating through the walls of the state capitol, and legislators wonder with all the federal budget cuts why are they so anxious to give? What's the catch? 411st District State Senator Joey Fillingane says, "The first three years its largely paid for by the federal government, but after the third year they start scaling back their share and the state's portion of that starts ramping up. But even those first couple of three years when they are supposedly paying the 100% of the expansion costs, they don't pay the administrative costs and there are millions and millions of dollars involved.The whole process of signing people up, getting them registered, getting the doctors, and getting the clinics and hospitals licensed"

Senator Fillingane says roughly a quarter of Mississippians are on Medicaid at the cost of 1 billion dollars to the state annually. That's one sixth of the state's entire yearly budget. "It is a problem because on top of funding Medicaid we're talking about funding education, and roads and bridges, and public safety and all those issues as well without raising any taxes."

If the state expands Medicaid to another 300 to 400,000 Mississippians, when the federal money tapers off in three years, the state will have to continue funding it. Without new revenue Medicaid would take out an even bigger chunk of the budget. And there's still plenty of debate. "If we don't provide it they're going to get their healthcare some way and it maybe at a higher rate in the emergency rooms and those kind of things anyway, so there are strong arguments either way."

However in the state senate at least, expanding Medicaid hasn't been the popular option. "The senate right now is looking at a Medicaid bill that continues the program at least, because so many Mississippians are on it, but we're really not looking. At this point none of the bills have any language for expansion"

The state legislature has five weeks left in general session and is required by law to have a balanced budget passed. Fillingane says Medicaid will continue to be a hot topic in the budget debate.