Monday, March 4, 2013

Gov. Phil Bryant (R) and Sen. Hob Bryan (D - Amory)

Over the weekend, Gov. Phil Bryant appeared as a guest columnist in the Clarion-Ledger, and argued against expanding Medicaid coverage to the working poor.  Sen. Hob Bryan (D - Amory), chairman of the Senate Medicaid subcommittee, responded today with a piece of his own in the Daily Journal.

In his article, Gov. Bryant says we don't have enough information to expand Medicaid yet, and otherwise generally tries to see how many times he can type the word "Obamacare".  I can sum up his argument in a sentence:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has yet to tell folks exactly how much and how quickly DSH (disproportionate share) payments will be cut to hospitals providing care to indigent people, so we shouldn't even discuss expanding Medicaid.

That's the position most anti-expansion Republicans have taken in the state, but none as forcefully as Gov. Bryant, whose opposition seems to be just part of a thinly-veiled effort to be the most Obama-hatin' Republican governor in America.  That's all part of a calculated move to win the support of the TEA Party crowd, which Gov. Bryant thinks will make him more popular in the state, and therefore less vulnerable to a rumored 2015 primary challenge from the "Barbour wing" of the Mississippi GOP.

Unfortunately for Mississippians, Gov. Bryant is, through House Speaker Phillip Gunn (R - Clinton), shutting down the ability for any conversation to take place on Medicaid expansion.  (For an explanation of how they're doing that, click here.)  In his response today, Sen. Bryan spells out why that is such an awful decision:

Medicaid is going to be expanded, and Mississippi taxpayers are going to pay for it. The issue is whether our federal tax dollars will go to provide health care and save jobs in other states, or whether we will allow those dollars to come to Mississippi.

Tens of thousands of Mississippians work at low paying jobs which do not provide health care. They work as construction workers, truck drivers, cashiers and other jobs, and many of them work a lot harder than legislators and governors. They pay taxes. They just can’t afford individual health care policies, and if they have pre-existing conditions, coverage is especially expensive. 
It’s never seemed right to me that those who don’t work and have no income are in some respects better off than those who do work, but earn low wages. Expanding Medicaid will allow these individuals and their families to receive health care at no additional cost to Mississippi taxpayers. Maybe the governor has another plan for the working poor, but it’s hard to know if we can’t have a debate.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Expanding Medicaid is a no-brainer. The federal government has already decided to take our tax money to build hospitals somewhere. We just have to decide if we want those hospitals to be here or in California.

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