Cover Mississippi Working to Promote Medicaid Expansion
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William Nold, Former Executive Deputy Director, Kynect in Kentucky
Desare Frazier

 

Newly released numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports nearly 105,000 Mississippians have enrolled for health insurance through the federal marketplace. According to Cover Mississippi, a coalition of healthcare advocates, there are nearly 200-thousand people in the state with no options for affordable health insurance.

"What's wrong with being able to go online and purchase insurance tailored to your needs at a discount price? Is that socialism. Is that really socialism. Now come on!" said Dr. Alford.

That's Dr. Tim Alford, the former president of the State Medical Association. He practices family medicine in Kosciusko, where the hospital is struggling to stay afloat. Once the Affordable Care Act went into effect in 2010, certain medicaid payments to hospitals were stopped and redirected to fund expanding state programs.

"It's put an incredible strain on rural hospitals. In our case our hospital was full this past weekend. I rounded on 27 people, 27 beds. Twenty-seven people and one quarter of them didn't have anything to pay with." said Dr. Alford.

Republican leaders have refused to expand medicaid and create a state-based exchange because they aren't convinced the government will fund the program, and it will cost taxpayers money. In Kentucky, it was William Nold, an attorney, who was the primary architect of the insurance exchange called Kynect with a "K." He told advocates, that his state also ranks near the bottom in health indicators, like deaths related to heart disease and smoking. Nold says Kentucky's governor, Steve Beshear, a Democrat, said he was going to use the Affordable Care Act law and not let it use him.

"His response went something like this and this was on national televsion. The 'Ed Show', they came over and talked to us. He said you know this isn't about President Obama. This is not about Governor Beshear. This is not about politics, and everyone looked at him like he's nuts. He said this is about improving the health of our state." said Nold.

The conservative red state began its medicaid expansion in January of 2014. According to Kentucky.Gov, by the end of the year, 375,000 people had signed up. A study done by auditing firm Deloitte and Touche found that more than 12,000 jobs were created. Nold said the number of uninsured dropped by 42 percent.

"I've talked to 50 and 60 year old men and women both, who have never had insurance, ever in their entire life. Can you imagine? They don't even know how to use it. One of the things we have had to do is actually educate a lot of these new folks about what a deductible is, and how you go about using your insurance now that you have it at a very affordable rate." said Nold.

Auditors found an increase in revenue to doctors, hospital, and health-related industries in Kentucky. Cover Mississippi says, the state could gain 4.8 million dollars in new revenue to rural hospitals and 20 million a year to community health centers, by doing the same thing. Kim Robinson with the Children's Defense Fund says, Mississippians are funding states with exchanges to the tune of 1.8 million dollars and losing billions more.

"There is about nine billion dollars that we're leaving on the table, that could come directly into Mississippi that would help us to expand healthcare infrastructure and that would help us to increase healthcare jobs and to have an overall healthy Mississippi." said Robinson.

Cover Mississippi plans to hold meetings in cities across the state in June, where hospitals are being impacted by the refusal to expand Medicaid.