Issue of the Day: Medicaid expansion

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Among those representing National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. - Central MS Chapter Legislative Day February 15, 2024, were: Rita Wray (President), Dr. Jennifer Young Wallace, Stacy Moman, Kaamilya Young, Ashley Floyd, and Vanessa Edmond.

By National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Central Mississippi Chapter; 

Issues of the Day Task Force 

The National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Central Mississippi Chapter (NCBW) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that has been a consistently strong partner in the building of better communities through its advocacy initiatives focusing on empowering Black women and girls to reach their fullest potential in an evolving world. NCBW operates on the assumption that empowering women and girls can help alleviate poverty, dependency, and planning at the family and community level which will result in healthier people and communities. We advocate for opportunities for Black women and girls to be able to participate fully in an inclusive and equitable world and contribute to the economic and social vitality of their communities.

We are endeavoring to speak directly to our larger community about issues that are important to achieving the quality of life we all want for ourselves and our families. We believe awareness will generate interest and inspire action which will move us further toward developing healthier families and communities. The first of a series of Issues of the Day monthly topics we will advance is Medicaid Expansion which is currently under consideration in the Mississippi legislature. We believe this is an issue that is central to developing healthy families and communities. 

Medicaid should not be a partisan issue. It is the primary option for the working poor. It provides healthcare coverage to qualified individuals, based on income and assets and who must meet the Federal Poverty Level. Low-income pregnant women, families with children, people with disabilities, parents, or caregivers are eligible to receive coverage through Medicaid. Access to quality health care is becoming an increasingly important issue as communities are suffering with the risk of hospital closures and very limited to no access to preventative or primary care. They are now speaking up and advocating for better healthcare.

Mississippi is one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid under the 2010 Affordable Care Act and one of eight in the South. Approximately 60% of Mississippi voters who were polled affirmed that our state should expand coverage for low-income, uninsured residents and offer greater stability to hospitals. Just recently the Mississippi House of Representatives passed a bill to expand Medicaid. It has gone to the Senate. If passed by both legislative chambers, the bill would call on the Mississippi Division of Medicaid to enter into negotiations with the federal government to expand Medicaid for only the working poor who make no more than the federal poverty line, which is about $20,000.00 per year for one person. This would include those who work 20 hours per week or are full-time students. This is a beginning step forward. 

Mississippi has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the nation, at 16.4% among people aged 19 to 64 and 17.3% among persons 65 years and older, according to the American Community Survey. Our state is historically a medically underserved state with poor outcomes for core health indicators. Access to quality preventative and primary care services is central to improving the health outcomes of many Mississippians.

Studies have shown that Medicaid expansion increased access to health care for pregnant and postpartum women, and some suggested improvements in certain adverse pregnancy outcomes. And all studies have found where maternal mortality and/or morbidity are considered, there are significant declines when more people are able to access prenatal and postpartum care. It further shows that Medicaid expansion is associated with decreased mortality overall and for certain specific conditions; reduction in rates of food insecurity, poverty; and home evictions and improvements in measures of self-reported health and healthy behaviors. 

Medicaid expansion also has been shown to offer health related benefits and associated gains that extend beyond healthcare coverage. There are indirect fiscal benefits as a result of an increase of new federal dollars. It appears to be a fiscally prudent opportunity for our state to improve the health and well-being of more of our vulnerable residents. Approximately 30% of Mississippi children live in poverty. Nineteen percent of the total population in the state is at or below the poverty line. Black children account for 49% compared to white non-Hispanic at 16%. The disparity is startlingly alarming in the twenty-first century Mississippi.

As well, 34% of Mississippi’s 74 rural hospitals are struggling and at risk of closure. Closures reduce rural communities and the families’ access to inpatient services and emergency room care. These hospitals are more likely to serve rural communities with a higher proportion of vulnerable populations. This exacerbates poor health outcomes in the nation’s poorest state. Some studies have found that Medicaid expansion reduced the number of hospital closures. 

Other studies have found the financial impact of expansion on states provide more positive than negative benefits, including budget savings, and overall economic growth. And there is the multiplier effect principle which indicates additional revenue earned by states lead to increased health care revenue which ultimately translates into increased employment, business and consumer activity. 

There is little question in our minds that the advantages of the Medicaid expansion outweigh the disadvantages. It can improve poor health outcomes that limit far too many Mississippians’ capacity to live productively and contribute to the state’s economic opportunities and growth.

We commend the House of Representatives for advancing this legislation. We are hopeful that the Senate will act accordingly. It is time for our state to invest in her most vulnerable people and take a chance on the rewards to follow. We take liberty in employing this quote by the late Hubert Humphrey, a former U.S. vice president: “The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.”

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Issue of the Day: Medicaid expansion

By Jackson Advocate News Service
March 18, 2024