Mississippi Congressmen Must Fight for Medicaid | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Mississippi Congressmen Must Fight for Medicaid

If our congressmen want to protect all Mississippians, particularly the most vulnerable in the state, they would fight for Medicaid. Period.

If our congressmen want to protect all Mississippians, particularly the most vulnerable in the state, they would fight for Medicaid. Period. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

It's no secret that Republicans in Washington, D.C., want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the proposed changes will hurt Mississippians on Medicaid. Understanding who benefits from Medicaid in the state should be at the forefront of all debates on the new health-care legislation.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate's version of the Affordable Care Act repeal legislation will lower Medicaid spending at a federal level by 26 percent within a decade. CBO estimates that 49 million of those enrolled in Medicaid under age 65 would be uninsured by 2026.

The Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act would chop Medicaid funding to cut the country's spending deficit. "The largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid—spending on the program would decline in 2026 by 26 percent in comparison with what CBO projects under current law," the CBO says.

Nearly 25 percent of the state's total population benefits from Medicaid—more than 700,000 people. Seventy-five percent of Medicaid enrollees are children, disabled or blind. It logically follows that fewer children in Mississippi will have health insurance if the proposal succeeds.

Kaiser Family Foundation data from fiscal-year 2016 show that Mississippi pitches in just 25 percent of Medicaid funds, meaning almost 75 percent of the state's total Medicaid funds are federal. The Legislature appropriated $919 million to the state's Division of Medicaid in the last fiscal year, meaning the poorest state literally receives millions of federal dollars to help cover its most vulnerable citizens.

As protesters outside Sen. Thad Cochran and Sen. Roger Wicker's Jackson offices pointed out last week, Medicaid is not a "hand out." Mississippians on Medicaid waiver programs often have jobs like any able-bodied Mississippian—they just need the support to stay employed and paying taxes.

Mississippi probably has the most to lose with any cuts to the federal Medicaid program. Children whose parents' jobs don't provide insurance and disabled citizens who need medical support to get to work or school will be most at risk under the bill.

If our congressmen want to protect all Mississippians, particularly the most vulnerable in the state, they would fight for Medicaid. Period.

So far, that doesn't look likely.

Sen. Wicker supported the Senate proposal from the get-go, but Sen. Cochran has been slow on the uptick, not issuing a "yes" or "no" statement when asked about the proposal. Despite Republican calls to push through the legislation before the July 4 holiday, it stalled; it is extremely unpopular.

We implore our Mississippi congressmen to fight for all Mississippians—not just the able-bodied, middle-aged folks who can afford their own insurance. The future health of the state heavily depends on Medicaid—do not jeopardize our state's health for short-term political wins.

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