The battle over Medicaid expansion in Mississippi has moved into high gear. Legislative and ideological battle lines largely follow party lines, with Democrats favoring expansion and Republicans opposing it. All parties to the struggle are passionate.
Nobody denies that Mississippi is distressingly poor and unhealthy, with far too many poor and near-poor citizens left without any form of health care short of the emergency room. But there the agreement ends. For every “pro” – expansion means more coverage, more prevention and earlier intervention, and lots more federal money (money the hospitals say they desperately need) rippling through the Mississippi economy – there seems a “con” – expansion will only foster greater dependency; costs are initially low but will rise rapidly to budget-breaking levels; expansion will overtax the state’s already sputtering health care workforce pipeline.
As a health care professional educator and advocate for the poor and marginalized, I come down squarely in favor of Medicaid expansion. Mississippi’s Republican leadership should take a leaf from former Republican opponents in other states who now embrace expansion as a deal “too good to pass up,” whatever the risks. But I do acknowledge that the issue is complex and hardly one-sided. There are risks, there will be costs, and most assuredly there will be unintended consequences, as there are with every major policy change.