When individuals are down on their luck, those trying to help them out become frustrated when the recipients of the generosity aren’t willing to do the smallest part to improve their situation.
So goes the common response: Why help them when they aren’t willing to help themselves?
The same can be applied to Mississippi and its obstinate refusal to expand Medicaid, which would help the uninsured, help financially struggling hospitals and help this state’s economy.
If Mississippi, under its current Republican leadership, won’t help itself, why should the federal government pick up all of the slack?
That’s our reaction to a plan currently circulating in Congress to effectively have the federal government fund the entire cost of covering the 200,000 to 300,000 Mississippians who would become eligible for the government health insurance program.
Washington has already offered Mississippi several generous deals, with no success. For the first few years after Obamacare was enacted, the state would have had to pay zero of the costs of covering workers who make too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid and too little to be able to afford private insurance. Mississippi said no.
When that incentive expired and the federal match fell to a still generous 90%, Mississippi was still uninterested, even as a majority of states got onboard, including several headed by Republicans. So earlier this year, as part of a coronavirus relief plan, a new carrot was added. If any of the 12 holdout states would now sign up, they would get a higher federal match on traditional Medicaid for the first two years. In Mississippi, that would mean an extra $600 million in federal outlays. Again, this state wasn’t interested.
The people who live in those other 38 states and the District of Columbia would have every good reason to tell their representatives in Congress this: “You better not vote to pick up 100% of the cost. If the leadership of Mississippi and these 11 other states cannot be reasoned with, let them suffer the consequences. Maybe the voters who elected them to office will eventually wise up and vote them out.”
There is ample reason to expand Medicaid already without any additional incentive from Washington. The federal government is only asking Mississippi to chip in 10%, and it’s going to initially give this state enough extra reimbursement to cover that 10% share for at least three years.
If that weren’t enough, studies have repeatedly shown, including one released just last week by Mississippi’s own government economists, that Medicaid expansion will pay for itself through increased economic activity, reduced levels of uncompensated care and the cost-shifting of current state health care costs onto the federal government.
In other words, Mississippi will make money on Medicaid expansion. Every contention by Gov. Tate Reeves and other expansion opponents that the state can’t afford it is a lie.
If this state is content to swallow that lie, then no one in Congress should feel obligated to send Mississippi one cent more to try to change its mind. Besides, as Sen. Hob Bryan, a Democrat who chairs the committee that deals with health care, quipped, even a 100% federal share might not be enough to convince the obstructionists.
“I imagine if there was any program like that, the governor and attorney general would sue to try to keep us from getting the money,” Bryan said.
Ridiculous but probably true.
Tim Kalich is editor and publisher of "The Greenwood Commonwealth."