HATTIESBURG, Miss.—At least two Republican candidates for statewide office in Mississippi are voicing support for Medicaid expansion—a policy state GOP leadership has long resisted.
Since 2013, Gov. Phil Bryant has refused federal funds to expand the program, which would bring coverage to 300,000 Mississippians who make too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid but not enough to buy their own insurance.
At a stop in Hattiesburg for his campaign for lieutenant governor on Thursday, Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann told the Jackson Free Press that he is "looking at" supporting an expansion. Rep. Robert Foster, R-Hernando, is supporting expansion as part of his GOP primary campaign for governor against current Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves.
"When it comes to our Medicaid program, pursuing real Medicaid reform is no longer a question," Foster's health-care platform on his website reads. "200,000 - 300,000 hard-working Mississippians and $1 - $2 billion dollars are being left off the table each year."
Just a few years ago, the idea of Mississippi Republicans running for statewide office while embracing Medicaid expansion would have been inconceivable. When President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, it included a provision requiring states to expand Medicaid. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of state expansions for the first several years, then 90 percent in later years.
After a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision nixed the requirement, though, Republican governors like Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant rejected the funds and refused the expansion.
"The critical component to me for expansion is that it breaks even," Hosemann told the Jackson Free Press Thursday. "I can't afford to do $250 million or $500 million to expand health care, and still pay my teachers or pay for infrastructure."
Refusal to Expand Medicaid Costs State Billions
A 2015 Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning study found