Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Medicaid Enrollment Rises Whether We Like It Or Not

Governor Bryant consistently rejects calls to expand health care access for hundreds of thousands of working Mississippians. That's not really news at this point. What is newsworthy is that while Bryant continues to reject expansion, increased enrollment in Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act is causing the state's Medicaid budget to increase with the state bearing greater - and avoidable - costs of enrollment.

Before open enrollment in the state's federally-run marketplace began, Mississippi had 714,055 enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP (the Children's Health Insurance Program). In March 2014, Mississippi's Medicaid enrollment was nearly 731,876 - a 2.5 percent increase. Bear in mind that unlike open enrollment in the state's insurance marketplace, Medicaid enrollment is constant. As a result, Medicaid enrollment numbers are likely to continue to go up, and this is a good thing! We now have fewer poor people going without some level of health insurance coverage who will have another tool in their belt to help keep them from falling deeper into poverty should a health care need arise.

Through the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would pick up 100 percent of the costs for these nearly 17,000 new Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries through 2016 and no less than 90 percent in subsequent years. Because of policy decisions by Governor Bryant and others, Mississippi taxpayers will pick up a greater share of the costs. Imagine what could happen if we had 2.5 years of people visiting the doctor and receiving healthier outcomes at no cost to the state's general fund! 

Again, these costs could be avoided if Bryant would change course. 

The fact of the matter is that Medicaid enrollment is growing whether Bryant likes it or not. If the cost to the state budget is his primary concern, which he has said all along it is, then it would be wise for him to reconsider his policy to reject health care access for working Mississippians.

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