Bills advancing in the Mississippi Legislature are re-igniting debate on whether the state should expand Medicaid as allowed under federal law.

Thus far the Republican leadership in the Legislature and Gov. Phil Bryant have blocked the Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act. The expansion would provide health care coverage primarily to the working poor.

Yet this session the Mississippi House has passed legislation to create a $10 million pool of state funds designed to help struggling, rural hospitals and OK’d the Attala County Board of Supervisors issuing $5 million in bonds “for relief from debts and financial obligations” for the struggling Montfort Jones Memorial Hospital in Kosciusko. The bonds will be the responsibility of the taxpayers of Attala County.

Many legislative Democrats contend it would be better to spend those funds to draw down more than $1 billion in federal funds to expand Medicaid to cover those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 for an individual, as is allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

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