“Mississippi Cares” Medicaid expansion plan explained

NORTH MISSISSIPPI, (WCBI) – Healthcare was a big topic in last night’s gubernatorial debate with candidates Jim Hood and Tate Reeves taking opposite sides.

Earlier this year the Mississippi Hospital Association unveiled a plan for Medicaid expansion that would cover hundreds of thousands of uninsured Mississippi residents.

According to Paul Black, CEO of Winston Medical Center, roughly 700,000 people in Mississippi are enrolled in Medicaid.

Medicaid is a state and federal program that helps people with limited income cover medical costs.

Now, the Mississippi Hospital Association is proposing the Mississippi Cares plan that would extend health insurance coverage to another 300,000 low-income residents within the state.

This is all to keep rural hospitals open.

“If you look at from that standpoint, that’s a million people out of three million people. That means a third of the population is making less than a hundred and thirty-eight percent of the poverty level or about seventeen, eighteen thousand dollars,” said Black.

How the state will pay for the expansion is a question many are asking.

“This program, Mississippi Cares, it’s not going to cost the state a dime. It’s actually going to bring a billion dollars into the state. It’s actually going to put two hundred million dollars into the general fund,” said Black.

The plan requires those enrolled to pay a $20 monthly fee.

The rest of the money, according to the MHA, will be funded by the hospitals themselves–something gubernatorial candidate Tate Reeves opposes.

“If hospitals are going to pay it, that means that your costs when you go to the hospital is going to go up. If you have private insurance, that means that your insurance rates are going to go up,” said Reeves.

Instead of expanding Medicaid, Reeves proposes the state to put more funding in scholarships to get more physicians to rural areas.

“We also have invested $28 million on rural physician scholarship program in the last eight years have proposed in my plan that we double the number of rural physician scholarships in our state, again, getting primary care physicians out into rural areas,” said Reeves.

The MHA argues the proposal would help boost the state economy by providing anywhere from 9,000 to 20,000 more jobs.

OCH Chief Medical Officer Dr. William Todd Smith said this figure isn’t unreasonable.

“The type of jobs that were quoted I don’t think are unreasonable when you look at covering what that 300,000 additional people could see how that could be a job promotion,” said Smith.

The state legislature will most likely have to sign-off on the expansion plan before a new administration would consider moving forward with the proposal.

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