Mississippi’s Governor Rejects Medicaid Expansion for Working-Class Constituents

The state is passing on roughly $600 million in federal funding to prevent residents from getting Medicaid.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves.Rogelio V. Solis/AP

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During the pandemic, Mississippi has had the highest COVID-19 death rate of any state outside the Northeast. On Friday, the state’s Republican governor, Tate Reeves, said he remained committed to denying access to Medicaid for constituents near the poverty line, even though expanding eligibility would make money for Mississippi as a result of the new stimulus bill. 

“My position has not changed. I am opposed to expanding Medicaid in Mississippi,” Gov. Reeves said during a press conference covered by the Mississippi Free Press. When asked by Vox if the prospect of additional funding might make him reconsider his opposition to Medicaid expansion, Reeves said, “No, sir, it will not.”

As part of Obamacare, the federal government covers 90 percent of the cost of expanding Medicaid to people who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $30,000 for a family of four. Twelve Republican-led states have refused that offer, leaving about 2.2 million of their constituents without health insurance. 

On top of the 90 percent match, the stimulus bill President Joe Biden signed Thursday would give Mississippi, the poorest state in the country, an estimated $600 million over two years to expand Medicaid to the roughly 200,000 to 300,000 people in the state who would be eligible. Nearly 60 percent of people who’d gain health insurance as a result of Medicaid expansion in Mississippi would be people of color. The vast majority of those people are Black. 

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that Medicaid expansion would cost Mississippi $290 million over two years before including the roughly $600 million in new stimulus money. In essence, Reeves is forfeiting hundreds of millions of dollars to deny his constituents health care in the middle of a pandemic. In an interview with Mississippi Today, Senate Public Health Committee Chair Hob Bryan, a Democrat, stressed that there “will be more money in the state treasury if we expand Medicaid than if we don’t.”

“For a number of years, the federal government has been offering us $1 million a day to take care of sick people,” Bryan said. “Now they are offering $1 million a day to take that other $1 million a day. You can’t make this stuff up.”

Instead of providing health insurance, Reeves is targeting transgender people. As my colleague Laura Thompson reported, Reeves signed a bill on Thursday that blocks transgender athletes from competing on women’s sports teams. Mississippi is the first state to enact such a law.

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