Advocacy groups are pushing lawmakers to expand access to healthcare to all Mississippians who need it. Those groups say health disparities are disproportionately affecting immigrants and minorities.
Mississippi ranks 48th in the nation in the incidence of diabetes and 50th in infant mortality and premature death, things that disproportionately affect minorities according to a recent report produced by the W-K Kellogg Foundation. The findings are spurring renewed calls by several advocacy groups for the state to increase access to healthcare by expanding Medicaid. Aida Martinez Bone is with the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance.
"When our communities are healthy then they are not spreading diseases," says Martinez Bone. "If you go to work and everybody there doesn't have access to healthcare, you know a virus can travel very fast, so not having access to healthcare it also impacts communities and schools."
The calls for Medicaid expansion are nothing new; advocacy groups have been pushing for more coverage since the Affordable Care Act passed. Leadership in the state legislature has declined to expand the program because the state can't afford it. Democratic Representative Alyce Clark of Jackson says the state desperately needs to do something before it’s too late.
"If we had expanded the Medicaid, then we would be doing something for a lot of people," says Clark. There are so many people who need healthcare. There are so many people who can't afford their medicines. Who can't afford the doctor bills. Who just can't afford to get themselves better. but if we were to do what we need to do then all of this would go away in my opinion."
With only days left in this year’s legislative session, it remains unlikely lawmakers will move to expand Medicaid. However, the budget for that particular program is still open for negotiations.