JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Some Mississippi lawmakers are trying to get a head-start on the legislative session, and their focus is on Medicaid expansion.
“Part of the reason that we’re here today is because there’s an election next month and the issue of Medicaid expansion is going to be on the ballot,” said Rep. Jarvis Dortch Tuesday.
The hearing is the first of two Medicaid expansion hearings being hosted this month by the Mississippi Legislative Democrats.
“It’s been six years since Medicaid expansion’s been an option," added Dortch. "State’s that have expanded Medicaid have seen dramatic improvements in healthcare outcomes, whether it’s maternal care, better obesity rates, diabetes rates, a whole host of things.”
But they’re asking that the politics be removed from the decision making moving forward.
“This shouldn’t be about a political football," added Rep. John Hines. "This should really be about improving quality of life for citizens. And so when you look at the conversations that are taking place, people have wanted to support this all along but they were afraid they were going to be ostracized.”
One way they’re working to humanize the issue is by talking about direct impacts such as maternal health.
“There are so many women in this state who don’t have access," noted Dr. Nakeitra L. Burse. "Who don’t have advocates [and] who this Medicaid expansion could truly impact. Women are human. People are human. And we’re not a political issue.”
It can’t be ignored that the issue is front and center in the gubernatorial race. Democrat Jim Hood has expressed support of expanding Medicaid. Republican Tate Reeves is strongly opposed to any form of expansion or reform, and has instead proposed a plan that includes more doctors, rural physician scholarships, telemedicine and tax credits for businesses investing in local hospitals.