Mississippi’s medical leaders want to expand access to healthcare in the state for all residents. They say this could save lives and build towards a healthier state.
Mississippi is one of 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid, and leaders with the Mississippi State Medical Association have created a plan to work towards expanding healthcare in the state. The plan addresses a variety of items and would be similar to that of neighboring states Arkansas and Louisiana which have both expanded healthcare access through Section 1115 Medicaid demonstration waivers. These waivers allow states flexibility in how Medicaid programs are created.
Dr. Geri Weiland, President of MSMA, says they are prepared to work with lawmakers to create a plan that would benefit the state “To cover as many people as possible, to see if it’s financially feasible for the state, and just to see if we can give them some sort of basic blueprint ‘Here’s what’s been done by our neighbor states, what do you think? Can we do this?’ It will be up to the legislature and or the executive branch, but we’re here to help,” says Dr. Weiland.
Attempts to pass Medicaid expansion in Mississippi have included taxes on hospitals, general expansion, and federal subsidies, but none have passed in the legislature. This summer, a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid was filed by Dr. John Gaudet, a pediatrician from Hattiesburg. But the state’s ballot initiative process was ruled unconstitutional. He says even those with health insurance take on a risk when seeking medical care as high hospital bills could lead to a large financial burden.
“People tend to get sicker because they’re not able to get prescriptions and doctor visits and that sort of thing so they may not be able to manage their chronic conditions,” says Dr. Gaudet. “When I look at expanding healthcare coverage, what I’m looking at is taking risk that’s involved in healthcare coverage and spreading it out as thin as possible so that we all shoulder a little bit of the burden.”
Governor Tate Reeves has been an outspoken opponent of Medicaid expansion and could veto a potential bill if it is not passed with a supermajority vote.