Mississippi could gain millions in federal dollars by expanding Medicaid. That's the findings of a study about low wage jobs in the state and the need for healthcare.
A new study by Georgetown University finds 13 percent of Mississippians work in low wage jobs in the service industry where few employers provide health insurance. Professor Joan Alker, a researcher for the report, says positions at restaurants, in retail and construction earn on average $17,700 per year; cashiers and maintenance workers earn less.
“So if someone has hypertension or diabetes or cancer, serious conditions. They can’t get medication. They can’t get treatment. They just get worse and worse until they show up in the ER and that results of course in uncompensated care. Some of the money is getting picked up by counties and state government,” said Alker
Linda Dixon is with the Mississippi Center for Justice, which partnered with Alker on the report. She says service jobs make up 20 percent of the work available in 10 Mississippi counties including Quitman, Humphreys and George. According to the National Restaurant Association, in 2019, nearly 122,000 people worked in the restaurant industry in those counties and Dixon says her organization is advocating for Medicaid expansion.
“It will continue to be a priority for us moving forward. Medicaid expansion would help more than 166,000 Mississippi residents, the majority of whom are low wage income workers. Including the extension of postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months," said Dixon.
The report found that through the American Rescue Plan, Mississippi would gain $400 million over two years by expanding Medicaid. The governor has stated he’s opposed to expanding the program.