Mississippians deserve Medicaid

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Thousands of Mississippi families are one major illness away from bankruptcy. Recent studies have shown that medical debt is the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in America; yet, as governors across the country in states like Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee are working to find ways to broaden their states’ Medicaid eligibility, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) continues to fight the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The result is failure to provide the much-needed safety net for middle-class Mississippians.

For decades leading up to 2010, the cost of healthcare soared, and insurance companies reduced coverage while, at the same time, raising prices. According to the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund, large numbers of working adults were reporting “problems paying” or “were unable to pay” medical bills.

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Between 2005 and 2010, the number of working Americans with this hardship rose from 39 million to 53 million. In many cases, high medical bills, coupled with loss of income by the head of household being forced to remain home, often resulted in bankruptcy for these working-class citizens.

But now, the Affordable Care Act requires that insurance companies provide quality coverage, while expanding the range of services provided at lower costs to Americans. Bryant’s refusal to accept expansion endangers our working Mississippians, who would otherwise be on their way to economic recovery.

Mississippi’s failure to expand Medicaid comes with a loss of tens of billions of dollars to the state. And who shares the brunt of this loss? You guessed it — the hard-working middle-class taxpayers. Expansion eases the economic burden on taxpayers by reducing the amount hospitals spend on indigent care. This translates to fewer visits to emergency rooms by the uninsured and increases access to coverage paid for by the federal government. 

Bryant argues that the state cannot afford the additional cost of expansion. But the federal government absorbs the total cost of expansion through 2016, at which point the state would only be responsible for 10 percent of the increase. The federal government currently supports two-thirds of the existing Medicaid program. Not to mention, increasing Medicaid eligibility actually reduces personal costs to citizens, as well as to states.

Through the expansion of Medicaid, Mississippi would stand to create nearly 9,000 new jobs, generate major economic boosts, attract additional development opportunities and return jobs to our state. The decision to expand Medicaid benefits the middle-class families. Bryant is forcing taxpayers to absorb a cost our state no longer has the ability to sustain. How long will Bryant fail Mississippi families?

Middle-class Mississippians are struggling to pay their bills and feed their families, and depleting their savings. Medicaid expansion keeps our middle class out of bankruptcy, creates jobs for Mississippians and protects our families. The governor is playing politics with the lives of Mississippians.

When will he fight for the people and not the Republican Party?

Thompson has represented Mississippi’s 2nd Congressional District since 1993. He is a member of the Homeland Security Committee.