25 Mar Mississippi Must Take Advantage of New Stimulus Package Incentives to Expand Medicaid Now
Linda Dixon is the health law director for the Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit, public interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice. Supported and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide.
The COVID relief package just passed by Congress helps states make health insurance and access to care a possibility for more children and families. Mississippi must act quickly to take advantage of increased funding to cover more parents, children, and pregnant women, especially at a time when so many residents have been hit hard by the pandemic.
As one of only 12 states that has refused to expand, our leaders must take a hard look at the increased funding available, as well as the more than 166,000 residents who would gain quality health insurance at a time when so many have lost their jobs and their health coverage.
While Medicaid expansion has always been a wise financial decision for states, this bill makes it even more so. With new federal funds covering more than the full cost of expansion for two years, Mississippi will save money, spur economic growth, and create jobs as we recover from the pandemic.
It is unacceptable that during a pandemic more than 166,000 uninsured adults in Mississippi have had to go without health insurance and live in fear of not being able to afford the care they need. The American Rescue Plan covers more than the full cost of expansion for at least two years, with the federal government continuing to cover 90% of costs after that.
Medicaid expansion is crucial to Mississippi’s recovery efforts. Unemployed Mississippians have lost health insurance and continue to face a global pandemic without adequate access to health care. Under current requirements, childless adults who are not otherwise eligible due to age or disability have no access to Medicaid – despite significant federal funding available to support such coverage. Parents with young children have very limited access to Medicaid now. A single parent with one child making $400 a month is ineligible for Medicaid in Mississippi but would receive health coverage in Louisiana and Arkansas – both of which have expanded Medicaid.
Expanding Medicaid is a key step towards addressing health disparities and ensuring our state has the best long-term response to COVID-19 and future public health emergencies. Our neighbors in Louisiana and Arkansas have access to health insurance to help their residents stay healthy and weather the current pandemic. Mississippians deserve the same.