Rally pushes lawmakers to have vote on Medicaid expansion - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Rally pushes lawmakers to have vote on Medicaid expansion

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Folks from across the state and professional spectrum packed the second floor of the state capitol Wednesday. All of them were there with a message for lawmakers, to expand the state's Medicaid program.

"We are the most unhealthy state in the nation. We hear that all the time. What are we going to do about it," asked Rev. Steve Casteel, President of the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference.

Even with rally after rally, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves says Medicaid expansion is not going to happen and doubts a debate will either. The senate has passed a bill to reauthorize the program as it currently exists for one year. Reeves says that'll give lawmakers time to sort out what will and won't happen with the Affordable Care Act.

"There are far too many unknown factors, the most important of which is the disproportionate share payments. It is our view that at this point they are going to continue," said Reeves.

The state hospital association disagrees and is urging an expansion before it's too late.

"The federal law, the law of the land, contains reimbursement cuts to Mississippi over the next ten years," said Sam Cameron, President and CEO of the Mississippi Hospital Association.

Medical leaders say those cuts would force hospitals to slash programs, services, staff and in some cases force rural hospitals to shut down completely.

"I know that our hospitals will suffer and our doctors will suffer both economically and our patients will suffer because they will not have the access to care that they need," said Dr. Robert Brahan, Governor of the American College of Physicians Mississippi Chapter.

An estimated 300,000 Mississippians would be added to the Medicaid rolls with an expansion and opponents say it's a move the state can't afford to make. With those opponents in charge of both legislative chambers, supporters say lawmakers owe it to Mississippians to at least have an open debate and let the issue be brought to a vote.

"This is about addressing the rights and commitments we've made as a country to every single citizen," said Casteel.

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