Today’s Clarion-Ledger carried a piece by Mississippi House of Representative member Cecil Brown, arguing the economic sense of Medicaid expansion. Rep. Brown is a Democrat, so perhaps subject to out-of-hand dismissal by a good many self-identified fiscal conservatives. But Brown is also a Certified Public Accountant and financial adviser – a quintessential “numbers guy” and budget hawk in his own right – whose views can be rejected only at risk of serious, self-inflicted injury.
Rep. Brown compares the legislature’s enthusiastic embrace of a Japanese tire manufacturing venture in Clay County to the resistance (to date) of Medicaid expansion. In both cases, Brown says, “the math is pretty simple.” To get the tire manufacturing plant, the state will first invest $70 million to create a promised 500 jobs, or $140,000 per job. Later, the state will spend another $130 millon for 2,000 jobs, at a relative bargain price of $65,000 per job. Brown supported the deal, and in general supports this kind of economic development for Mississippi. The University Research Center estimates that the resulting increased economic activity will earn the state back its investment in as little as nine years.
But if the tire plant is a good idea, says Brown, Medicaid expansion is an even better one. Aside from the potential health benefits of adding 300,000 Mississippi citizens to the insurance coverage rolls, expansion promises to pump $10 billion into Mississippi over ten years, at a state investment of $368 million. The new funding (following expanded health services), according to the same University Research Center economists, is expected to create 9,000 new jobs. What’s more, expanding Medicaid avoids some nasty negative consequences of refusing expansion – notably significant loss of revenue to Mississippi hosptials, and penalties to Mississippi employers with more than 50 employees who don’t provide health insurance.
In Rep. Brown’s own words: “The math is pretty simple. (1) Reject Medicaid expansion and subject small employers to substantial penalties, forego 9,000 new jobs, face the closure of local hospitals and the resulting loss of hundreds of jobs, and reject $10 billion of new federal funds over the next 10 years; or (2) Expand Medicaid, provide 300,000 working Mississippians with health insurance , and create 9,000 new jobs all over the state at a fraction of the cost per job that the Legislature just spent in the single county of Clay.”
Indeed, the math does seem pretty simple.