15 Jun To Recover from COVID-19, Mississippi Must Expand Medicaid Now
Recently, Governor Reeves underscored the importance of remaining vigilant to fight the spread of COVID-19. Mississippi continues to see hundreds of cases daily, with significant burdens placed on rural hospitals and the African American community. The pandemic is set to cause long-lasting impacts on our economy, with nearly 43 million workers across the country filing unemployment claims as a result of the virus. Even when people file claims, Mississippi’s administrative barriers make benefits nearly impossible to obtain.
State legislators must prioritize the thousands of Mississippians struggling with health and financial insecurity by expanding Medicaid and strengthening our health care system.
Medicaid expansion is crucial to our COVID-19 recovery efforts. Newly unemployed Mississippians have lost health insurance and face a global pandemic without adequate access to health care. This loss of coverage will likely be sustained as the country prepares for several months of heightened unemployment.
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 some access to Medicaid but are restricted to staggeringly low income levels. A single parent with one child making $400 a month is ineligible for Medicaid in Mississippi but would receive coverage in Louisiana and Arkansas—both of which have expanded Medicaid.
Mississippi’s stringent requirements mean many are left without options and without a lifeline to help them get back on their feet.
COVID-19 has also revealed striking health disparities in Mississippi. While African Americans represent 38% of the state’s population, as of June 7, they represent 60% of COVID-19 cases and 53% of COVID-19 deaths. These disparities are the result of decades of systemic barriers that have put affordable, effective health care out of reach.
Expanding Medicaid is a key step towards addressing health disparities and to 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 a safety net to help people stay healthy and weather the current pandemic. Mississippians deserve the same.
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.