Mississippi Senate revises Medicaid expansion and sends bill to House.

Jackson, Miss. — Mississippi lawmakers will negotiate Medicaid expansion in one of the poorest states after the Senate approved Thursday for a very different plan than the House's. The upper chamber's proposal would insure fewer people and deliver less federal money to the state than the House's last month. However, the Senate's approach contains a stricter work requirement and steps to limit Medicaid expansion  

Senate debated the bill for nearly two hours before passing it 36-16. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and his party are at odds over his plan to expand low-income health insurance access. On Wednesday, Reeves branded the bill “Obamacare Medicaid” and claimed it would provide “welfare expansion to those able-bodied adults that could work but choose not to.”  

Republican Sen. Kevin Blackwell, who chairs the Senate Medicaid Committee, calls the Senate proposal Medicaid expansion “lite,” saying it is narrower than the Affordable Care Act, signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2010.  

Blackwell stated, “Many of the comments I've seen recently on social media are misleading, inaccurate and designed to be inflammatory.” “This bill is not Obamacare expansion. This conservative, reasonable bill helps the working poor.” The Senate's modified plan would limit eligibility to people making up to 100% of the federal poverty threshold, or just over $15,000 per person. That is down from the House-approved 138% number, slightly under $21,000 per person.  

Missy McGee, chair of the House Medicaid Committee, claimed her idea might benefit 200,000 people. Blackwell said his committee's proposed plan might expand coverage for 80,000 individuals, but he expects just 40,000 to join.  

Mississippi tops every discrepancy and ranks last in most health care indicators. Hospitals struggle to stay open. State labor force participation is among the lowest in the nation. Expansion supporters say the policy might improve conditions.  

On the floor, Republicans defeated Senate Democrats' Medicaid expansion measures. Still, Senate Democrats all voted for the bill, with Minority Leader Derrick Simmons stating that Mississippi is in a “health care crisis” and that the bill is better than the status quo.  

Medicaid expansion opponents believe it will increase government dependency, health service wait times, and pressure individuals off private insurance. Republican lawmakers oppose expansion without a work requirement. The Senate version would demand 30 hours of labor per week for extended benefits, up from the House's 20.  

The Senate requires President Joe Biden's administration to approve its work requirement for expansion. The government has routinely revoked work requirement waivers, stating that health care should not be hindered. Only Georgia has linked a job requirement to a partial Medicaid expansion. The state only requires 80 monthly work hours, 40 less than Mississippi senators' proposal. Georgia's program has low enrollment.  

The Senate version would prohibit Medicaid expansion without a work requirement, unlike the House proposal. Blackwell expects Biden to lose November to a Republican whose government will support a work requirement.   

Mississippi would forfeit a financial advantage for expanding Medicaid under the Senate's decreased eligibility level. The bill returns to the House, where Reeves is certain to veto it. His veto could be overridden by two-thirds of the House and Senate.  

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