Medicaid expansion in Mississippi closes health insurance gap

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Nearly 20% of Mississippi residents live in poverty, tells us the US Census Bureau.

Former President Barack Obama said it well: “If poverty is a disease that infects the whole community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, we cannot simply treat these symptoms in isolation. . We need to heal this whole community.

Healing the whole community means that we must collectively solve pressing problems such as the health insurance coverage gap.

Since 2014, states have had the ability to expand Medicaid eligibility to include adults whose income is below 138% of the federal poverty level, which would close the health insurance coverage gap, which means that a family of four earning less than $26,500 would have access to health insurance. Unfortunately, Mississippi is one of 12 states that continue to force working families to suffer without health insurance options. This is appalling considering that Mississippi currently leads the nation in deaths from cardiovascular disease, infant mortality, diabetes and obesity.

Mississippi’s health system ranks last among all states on a range of measures: access to health care, quality of care, health care utilization, cost of care, health outcomes and health disparities. income-based health care. Low-income Mississippi residents face significant challenges accessing affordable health care.

In 2019, the state had the fifth highest rate not insured in the country, The Kaiser Family Foundation reports. Almost one in five people live in poverty. This is important because health insurance determines if and when people get needed medical care, where they get their care, and their health status. Uninsured people are much more likely than insured people to postpone health care or forgo it altogether.

The consequences can be serious, especially when preventable conditions or chronic illnesses go undetected.

“Health, Wealth and Economic Sustainability”

Closing the health insurance coverage gap is one of the policy measures that have proven effective in reducing health disparities. Increasing access to Medicaid for families in Mississippi means longer windows of health care coverage for mothers before and after their pregnancy, which improves birth outcomes. Studies have also found that among people with chronic conditions, Medicaid expansion has contributed to increased insurance coverage and improvements in payer mix, better access to care, and better patient outcomes. health, including disease management and mortality.

To date, 38 states and the District of Columbia have embraced Medicaid expansion, and 12 states have not. Mississippi is one of those 12. Graphic by Kaiser Family Foundation

Expanding access to health insurance also reduces unpaid hospital care and eases the financial burden of health care for working families. Reducing the costs of uncompensated care helps patients, hospitals and government budgets. These costs result in medical debt, which hospitals may seek to collect even from very low-income patients; become part of patients’ credit history, reducing their access to loans; and sometimes cause people to declare bankruptcy.

These costs weigh on hospitals, preventing them from investing in new technology or equipment, maintaining the capacity needed to serve patients, or even staying open. Finally, the costs of uncompensated care weigh on state budgets because many states cover part of these costs. The expansion of Medicaid greatly reduces this burden on hospitals.

Medicaid expansion can also be a form of economic stimulus. The injection of federal spending would give a boost to the state economy. A Commonwealth Fund study found that Mississippi would realize substantial savings through Medicaid expansion, resulting in a reduction in state spending of $333 million for existing Medicaid populations over five years.

Additionally, Mississippi would qualify for the US Bailout Act of 2021increased federal funding, which would provide an estimated additional $747 million in federal dollars. In total, it is estimated that the state could realize $1.2 billion in savings over five years, compared to only $956 million in costs.

Closing the health insurance gap through Medicaid expansion improves health outcomes by increasing access to and use of health care services. It also translates into increased provider incomes and reduced unpaid care while driving economic growth.

Without Medicaid expansion, the health, wealth, and economic sustainability of working families in Mississippi are at stake.

This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff, or its board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and fact-checking information to [email protected] We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.

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