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Medicaid expansion ballot initiative groundwork underway in Mississippi

Updated: Apr. 9, 2021 at 10:04 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Many Mississippi politicians continue to push back on the idea of Medicaid expansion. But efforts are ramping up to put it to a vote by the people.

President and CEO of the Mississippi Hospital Association, Tim Moore, along with Hattiesburg pediatrician Dr. John Gaudet and advocate Dr. Nakeitra Burse formed the non-profit Healthcare for Mississippi.

They’ve now filed the paperwork for Initiative 76.

Friday morning, the Mississippi Hospital Association’s board of governors voted to partner with the non-profit on the effort. Signature collection should start next month with a goal of getting the ballot initiative on the 2022 ballot.

The exact language for Initiative 76 is still being ironed out. It’s goal, though, is to expand Medicaid to those who fall in the “coverage gap” of making too much to be eligible for Medicaid but not enough to afford private insurance.

“Since the legislature has not taken action in all this time then really, why do it now? Let the people decide,” said Mississippi Hospital Association President/CEO Tim Moore. “If it has been too hot of a topic politically to touch then let’s let Mississippi decide and move forward with it.”

“I really hope this does not become a political issue,” noted Dr. John Gaudet. “When I’m talking about healthcare, I’m not talking to Democrats, Republicans or Independents. I’m talking to Mississippians.”

The Millsaps College/Chism Strategies State of the State Survey from January 2020 asked if people would support Medicaid expansion. The answers reveal 60 percent of those polled support expansion.

We asked Governor Tate Reeves about the ballot initiative this week.

“Governing through the initiative process has some advantages... people get to be heard,” he said. “But it also has some significant disadvantages. I can assure you that however they write the question for the ballot, should they are able to get it on there, they’re going to leave out that minor part about it costing hundreds of millions of dollars more per year if we were to expand Medicaid.”

The framework for expansion is the federal government paying 90 percent of the cost, the state covering 10 percent. And states that haven’t expanded are being offered additional incentives now.

“It’s undeniably confusing as to why we would not take advantage of it,” added Moore. “We’ve seen study after study, even if the state paid the full match... it pays for itself over time.”

Although the Hospital Association has previously presented the Mississippi Cares plan that would have hospitals and plan members covering the state’s 10 percent share, that will not be referenced in the ballot initiative language.

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