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Petitioning starts for plan to expand Mississippi Medicaid

Mississippi health care professionals are the first to sign petitions that would put Medicaid expansion on the November 2022 ballot.

Posted: May 11, 2021 4:49 PM

MADISON, Miss. (AP) — Health care professionals on Tuesday became the first people to sign petitions to put Medicaid expansion on the November 2022 ballot in Mississippi.

Organizers of Initiative 76 have a year to gather more than 106,000 signatures. But to reach the ballot in 2022, they must finish gathering signatures before the Legislature meets early next year.

Medicaid is a health insurance program for the needy, aged, blind and disabled. It is paid by federal and state money. Mississippi has about 3 million residents, and Medicaid already covers more than 763,500 people. That is 25% of the population.

Supporters of Initiative 76 estimate that expansion would add about 200,000 more people, primarily those working low-wage jobs that do not provide private health insurance coverage.

Mississippi is one of 12 states that have not approved expanding Medicaid coverage to the working poor, which is an option under the Affordable Care Act that was signed into law in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and his Republican predecessor, Phil Bryant, have said they believe Mississippi cannot afford to put more people on the program, even with the federal government paying for most of the tab.

Dr. John Gaudet is a Hattiesburg pediatrician who is sponsoring the initiative. He said Medicaid expansion could help people like his niece, who was diagnosed with a digestive tract disease when she was a child and still has health challenges as an adult. Gaudet said she is a dispatcher for an ambulance company but cannot work enough hours to keep insurance coverage through her employer. He said she is considering applying for disability benefits, but expanding Medicaid would allow her to continue working without worrying about big medical bills.

“Although she regularly saves lives, we may lose her skills to her need for coverage,” Gaudet said during a news conference Tuesday.

Amory resident Jonathan Smith, 35, said he hopes he would become eligible for Medicaid coverage if the program is expanded. Smith said he was working as a forklift operator about four years ago when he began having seizures. Doctors found he had cancer of the nervous system. Smith said that about the time he had a brain tumor removed, his employer switched insurance plans in early 2018 and he was left without coverage. He said he has been unable to work because seizures have continued, and he remains uninsured. He said family members have helped him pay some bills.

“There's no way that I could pay for these thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of bills,” said Smith, the father children who are 1, 5, 7 and 8 years old.

Tim Moore, president and CEO of the Mississippi Hospital Association, said Mississippi has been turning down billions of federal dollars that could keep hospitals and clinics open. He said half of the rural hospitals in the state are in financial jeopardy.

“If you believe in small towns, you believe in Medicaid expansion,” Moore said.

Because Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation, it receives the most generous portions of federal funding for Medicaid. The federal government currently pays 84.5% of Medicaid expenses in Mississippi. The next-largest federal share goes to West Virginia, at nearly 81%.

Under expansion, the federal government would pay a higher share of the cost.

If supporters of Initiative 76 gather enough signatures, legislators will have a chance to put an alternate proposal dealing with the same subject on the same ballot. That could confuse some voters who would have to choose between competing ideas over whether to expand Medicaid to people who work in jobs that provide modest pay but do not provide private health insurance.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 484675

Reported Deaths: 9480
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison33151493
Hinds31184589
DeSoto30803365
Jackson23735349
Rankin21390373
Lee14963221
Madison14206272
Jones13430227
Forrest13199241
Lauderdale11623307
Lowndes10501176
Lamar10258130
Pearl River9151221
Lafayette8268137
Hancock7534113
Washington7144152
Oktibbeha6989124
Monroe6533167
Neshoba6489201
Warren6486166
Pontotoc632993
Panola6278127
Marshall6165126
Bolivar6129145
Union576089
Pike5626138
Alcorn540590
Lincoln5310132
George473572
Scott461596
Leflore4495140
Tippah448180
Prentiss447979
Itawamba4457100
Adams4429117
Tate4420103
Wayne434667
Simpson4339114
Copiah432988
Yazoo423686
Covington417192
Sunflower4155104
Marion4111104
Coahoma3986100
Leake398286
Newton372375
Grenada3565104
Stone351360
Tishomingo338389
Attala325987
Jasper316062
Winston305691
Clay297374
Chickasaw287866
Clarke283290
Calhoun267741
Holmes262887
Smith252249
Yalobusha224347
Tallahatchie221150
Walthall211758
Greene209945
Lawrence207034
Perry201054
Amite199452
Webster196942
Noxubee179339
Montgomery172954
Jefferson Davis168342
Carroll162537
Tunica154235
Benton143035
Kemper138840
Choctaw128826
Claiborne127134
Humphreys127038
Franklin116928
Quitman104227
Wilkinson102036
Jefferson91533
Sharkey63020
Issaquena1937
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 790648

Reported Deaths: 14025
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1117431765
Mobile709021237
Madison50032633
Shelby36350315
Baldwin36278495
Tuscaloosa34034548
Montgomery33229678
Lee22712220
Calhoun21297410
Morgan19852335
Etowah19341462
Marshall17716274
Houston16862386
St. Clair15479305
Cullman14659258
Limestone14609188
Elmore14507264
Lauderdale13557281
Talladega13015236
DeKalb12214237
Walker10604330
Blount9735157
Autauga9691137
Jackson9400158
Coffee8934175
Dale8631173
Colbert8545184
Tallapoosa6688181
Escambia6599121
Covington6466167
Chilton6395144
Russell608755
Franklin5805101
Chambers5425134
Marion4818120
Dallas4713189
Clarke464079
Pike463297
Geneva4433117
Winston427395
Lawrence4124108
Bibb410281
Barbour347470
Marengo326485
Monroe320253
Butler318490
Randolph306656
Pickens306474
Henry302658
Hale293085
Cherokee290855
Fayette280373
Washington245548
Crenshaw238770
Cleburne236751
Clay229265
Macon220658
Lamar200443
Conecuh182046
Coosa170835
Lowndes170858
Wilcox159736
Bullock149543
Perry136537
Sumter124736
Greene121443
Choctaw73427
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