If the state were to extend Medicaid, as allowed under the health overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law, many low-wage workers could receive coverage that would enable them to afford doctors’ visits, prescriptions and medical supplies, said Roy Mitchell of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program. He said bus drivers, cashiers, day care workers and many others are in jobs that provide modest paychecks but no health insurance coverage.
“These are the people the governor is punishing today,” Mitchell said during a news conference at the Jackson Medical Mall, part of an effort to increase pressure on elected officials before the 2015 legislative session begins in January.
Gov. Phil Bryant and other Republican leaders have said repeatedly over the past two years that they don’t believe the federal government will fulfill its promises to pay most of the tab for Medicaid expansion in the future, and they don’t want Mississippi to get stuck with a health program that eats a disproportionately large share of the state budget.
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“It’s relatively hard to get on Medicaid, which it should be,” Rep. John Moore, R-Brandon, a member of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee said during state budget hearings last week.
During the hearings, Medicaid officials requested more than $1 billion for the first time in the program’s history. Legislators rarely grant agencies’ full requests for money, but even something just short of $1 billion would be a significant chunk of a state budget that’s expected to be just over $6 billion for the year that begins July 1.