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Medicaid expansion push likely dead as session expires

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(The Center Square) — A bid by Mississippi lawmakers to expand Medicaid is likely dead after the two chambers were unable to reach a compromise.

The latest offering is a non-binding referendum to be placed on the ballot by House Speaker Jason White, R-West, an idea that Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said his caucus has rejected.

“This session proved that a consensus has formed and we all share the same goal: To provide health care access to low-income Mississippians. Creating a referendum process for this issue is a clear direction forward,” White said in a statement on X. “We hope that our colleagues in the Senate will take this opportunity to finally hear from the electorate once and for all.”

House Bill 1725 would’ve expanded Medicaid in the state for adults which are 138% of the federal poverty level. The bill would’ve required state officials to ask the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services for a work requirement, which would’ve likely not happened under President Joe Biden’s administration.

Second-term Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who would’ve vetoed any expansion plan since he has campaigned against “Obamacare expansion” since his first term, was incredulous on X.

“Mississippi conservatives can’t do a referendum on keeping men out of women’s locker rooms!” Reeves said. “Mississippi conservatives can’t do a referendum on eliminating the income tax! We can’t do a referendum on anything….but some House Republicans want to do one on Obamacare Medicaid Expansion??? Are you kidding me??”

Reeves made reference to the failure of Senate Bill 2753, the Securing Areas for Females Effectively and Responsibly Act that would’ve provided for separate areas such as bathrooms and locker rooms for the sexes. The bill died in conference.

Georgia is the only state with a work requirement for Medicaid that was granted by former President Donald Trump’s administration and was ended by the Biden administration. The Peach State is suing the federal government over the work requirement.

The House bill passed by a veto-proof majority Feb. 28.

The Senate had its own plan that would’ve covered a smaller amount of people (100% of the federal poverty level). As of March, Medicaid provides coverage for 374,823 out of the state’s 2.96 million residents.

The two chambers had a compromise, but the bill was recommitted for more talks, which are unlikely with the session’s end scheduled for Sunday.

“We had some discussions with Senators today about the possibility of a nonbinding referendum on the ballot and the idea was not well received,” Hosemann said in a statement. “We are disappointed in the outcome this year, but value the discussions which occurred this session — the first time this Legislature has seriously considered health care reform in our state.

“I remain committed to finding ways to increase access for working Mississippians who otherwise do not have the resources for a simple check-up or an extended hospital stay. A strong work requirement, with necessary exceptions, is a bottom line for many Senators. We look forward to continuing the conversation on access to health care in the future.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, states can expand Medicaid to adults living 138% above the poverty level, with the federal government picking up 90% of the tab.

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