Insurance chief urges governor to delay Medicaid expansion decision

Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney is advising Gov. Phil Bryant not to act hastily in committing either way on a federal offer to expand Medicaid to tens of thousands of uninsured Mississippians.

“We have asked the governor to refrain from committing to anything for the time being,” Chaney said, calling for more time to explore the state’s options.

Just after The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, Bryant declared it unlikely Mississippi would participate in any expansion of Medicaid, despite the federal government’s offer to fully fund the expansion for the first three years and pick up at least 90 percent of the tab thereafter.

“I would resist any expansion of Medicaid that could result in significant tax increases or dramatic cuts to education, public safety and job creation,” Bryant said.

Though the court upheld the individual mandate, justices said the federal government could not use a withholding of current Medicaid dollars to force states to significantly expand their Medicaid rolls.

The Affordable Care Act specifies an expansion of Medicaid eligibility to people with incomes within 133 percent of the federal poverty level. That provision would provide health coverage to about 54 percent of Mississippians who currently have no coverage.

The state’s current Medicaid enrollment is about 300,000 people at a cost of about $1.8 billion, largely federally funded. The expansion would add about 400,000 people and cost about $2.4 billion. “Our participation would be 10 percent of that.” Chaney said of the state’s funding obligation.

Chaney said he told Bryant the proposition is worth further study.

A host of other Republican governors have already declared they want no part of the deal, including Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott, South Carolina’s Niki Haley and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. Even the Democratic governor of California, Jerry Brown, has declined to commit to the expansion.

Proponents say without the expansion, people with health insurance and taxpayers will continue to cover the cost of care for the uninsured who rely on hospital emergency rooms for medical treatment.

 

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