Mississippi House leadership team reflects new speaker’s openness to Medicaid expansion
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The new speaker of the Mississippi House on Friday announced his leadership team for this four-year term, making a significant change by choosing a new chairman who supports his wish to consider Medicaid expansion.
Speaker Jason White appointed fellow Republican Sam Creekmore of New Albany to lead the House Public Health and Human Services Committee.
Creekmore, whose father is a physician, told The Associated Press that he has been willing for years to consider Medicaid expansion as a way to bring more federal money to Mississippi. The state has long been one of the poorest in the nation.
“I’m close to our hospital administrators in New Albany, in Tupelo,” Creekmore said Friday. “I see the struggles they go through. So I’m hoping to put it all on the table.”
White appointed Republican Missy McGee of Hattiesburg as the new chairwoman of the House Medicaid Committee, also giving her a role in considering broader coverage by the program. She was one of the leaders last year in changing state law to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to a full year.
Medicaid is health insurance for low-income people, and it’s funded by state and federal money. Under the 2010 health care overhaul signed by then-President Barack Obama, states have the option to expand Medicaid coverage to people working in jobs that provide modest wages but no private health insurance.
Mississippi is one of 10 states — nine with Republican governors and one with a Republican-controlled legislature — that have not taken the expansion option. Debate over the issue has stalled in Mississippi because of opposition from Republican leaders, including Gov. Tate Reeves, who refers to Medicaid as “welfare,” and former House Speaker Philip Gunn, who did not seek reelection last year.
The House chose White as the new speaker on Jan. 2. With some Mississippi hospitals struggling to remain open, White says he wants legislators to consider Medicaid expansion as a way to bring up to $1 billion of federal money to the state each year.
McGee replaces Republican Joey Hood of Ackerman as leader of the Medicaid Committee, and Creekmore replaces Republican Sam Mims of McComb as leader of Public Health. As part of Gunn’s leadership team, they never pushed Medicaid expansion.
White is keeping the same leaders of the committees that handle money — Republican John Read of Gautier as chairman of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee and Republican Trey Lamar of Senatobia as chairman of Ways and Means, which considers taxes and borrowing.
He chose Hood as the new chairman of Judiciary A and Republican Kevin Horan of Grenada as the new chairman of Judiciary B, the committees that consider bills that affect criminal and civil cases.
White also named Republican Rob Roberson of Starkville as the new chairman of Education and Republican Donnie Scoggin of Ellisville as the new chairman of Universities and Colleges.