A new coalition of medical experts and non-profits is advocating for Medicaid expansion in eight southern states, including Mississippi, and they believe by expanding the program the state could bring in billions of dollars in economic growth.
Members of Southerners for Medicaid Expansion are holding a vigil honoring the more than 200,000 people who have died from the Coronavirus in the US. The coalition believes by not expanding the healthcare program, it has hurt the south's response to the coronavirus pandemic, especially for essential workers who's jobs are low pay. Dr. Charlene Collier with the state Department of Health says the coronavirus only made health disparities worse. "One of those being not having health insurance and access to adequate healthcare so even when you're thinking you're sick you don't have a doctor to start your care with, and then once you do finally get coverage, it's often for something that's more catastrophic, so not getting that early preventive care," says Dr. Collier.
Republican leaders in the Mississippi legislature have long been opposed to expanding Medicaid, describing it as an economic issue. However, Joe Weissfeld with Families USA, says the state is losing $2.5 billion in economic growth by not expanding Medicaid. "In Mississippi, we've seen six rural hospitals close since 2005," says Weissfeld. "These are hospitals that benefit from more insured patients. And we're also in the middle of a pandemic, and many of the frontline and essential workers work in industries that don't always provide health insurance."
Weissfeld also says by expanding Medicaid in Mississippi, an additional 12,000 jobs could be created.