State democrats offer compromise on Medicaid expansion
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
It's been a sticking point at the state capitol ever since Mississippi was given the option of whether to expand the state's Medicaid program under what's known as "Obamacare." Democrats want an expansion, while Republicans are against it.
"All we've asked for is let us debate it, let's get a vote and let's see where we are," said Rep. Cecil Brown, a democrat from Jackson.
In a compromising effort Wednesday, Democrats say they're willing to work with GOP leadership and Governor Phil Bryant who has concerns on whether disproportionate share payments will still be paid to local hospitals under an expansion.
That federal money is paid to hospitals to offset their costs of treating patients without insurance. Bryant believes the money will still be paid without an expansion. Democrats argue the money would either be greatly reduced or eliminated and leave many hospitals having to get rid of staff to make up for the loss.
"People will lose jobs and people will lose access to healthcare, particularly in our rural communities," said Sen. David Blount, a Democrat from Jackson.
Bryant maintains it's simply a threat from the White House to expand "Obamacare" and a move the state can't afford.
"Its intimidation to try and ask states to use primarily if they will a state exchange as a vehicle to expand "Obamacare,'" said Bryant.
To strike up a deal, Democrats are making an offer. they want to include a trigger clause in legislation that an expansion would only happen if those payments are reduced. If the payments remain, an expansion would not happen.
"We don't agree with his concerns but that's ok. He's the governor. He has every right to be concerned," said Brown. "We just say, 'Ok, if you're right we won't expand. If you're wrong, we will expand.' That seems to take care of the argument he's making."
For any of that to happen lawmakers will have to revive a Medicaid re-authorization bill that died Tuesday. That bill authorizes the program to continue operating in the state. Democrats hope they can bring the bill back to life and get the ball rolling on expansion legislation.
"This is an opportunity for all of those who say that they care about moving the state forward. This is one of the things we can do," said Rep. Robert Johnson, a Democrat from Natchez.
If an expansion does happen in Mississippi, an estimated 300,000 people would be added to the Medicaid rolls.
Under this plan, Democrats say legislation will allow time for a wait and see approach on what will happen from the federal government.
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