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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: 319704

Reported Deaths: 7369
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22276267
Hinds20677421
Harrison18407317
Rankin13880282
Jackson13689248
Madison10249224
Lee10056176
Jones8464167
Forrest7827153
Lauderdale7260242
Lowndes6509150
Lamar634888
Lafayette6310121
Washington5420137
Bolivar4837133
Panola4669110
Oktibbeha466098
Pearl River4604147
Marshall4573105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425373
Union415777
Monroe4155135
Neshoba4061179
Lincoln4008112
Hancock386687
Leflore3515125
Tate342486
Sunflower339491
Pike3369111
Alcorn325972
Scott320174
Yazoo314171
Adams307486
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298784
Simpson298189
Tippah291968
Prentiss283861
Leake271974
Marion271280
Covington267283
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George252051
Newton248663
Tishomingo231568
Winston229981
Jasper222148
Attala215073
Chickasaw210559
Holmes190374
Clay187854
Stone187833
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164034
Walthall135347
Greene131833
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127138
Amite126342
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108033
Tunica108027
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69532
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548323

Reported Deaths: 11288
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson809531565
Mobile42066826
Madison35663525
Tuscaloosa26162458
Shelby25595254
Montgomery25081612
Baldwin21839313
Lee16265176
Calhoun14718325
Morgan14626285
Etowah14171363
Marshall12449230
Houston10764288
Elmore10295213
Limestone10182157
St. Clair10160251
Cullman9941201
Lauderdale9596249
DeKalb8967189
Talladega8458184
Walker7335280
Autauga7230113
Blount6944139
Jackson6922113
Colbert6414140
Coffee5627127
Dale4929114
Russell454941
Chilton4472116
Franklin431083
Covington4273122
Tallapoosa4136155
Escambia401780
Chambers3726124
Dallas3607156
Clarke352961
Marion3242106
Pike314078
Lawrence3129100
Winston283572
Bibb268464
Geneva257581
Marengo250665
Pickens236862
Barbour234659
Hale226878
Butler224071
Fayette218162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph187044
Monroe179341
Washington170439
Macon162951
Clay160159
Crenshaw155657
Cleburne153244
Lamar146537
Lowndes142054
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh113430
Coosa111429
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93534
Choctaw62025
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