By Roy Mitchell, Executive Director, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
The Picayune Item
For too long as a state, we’ve been baited by pundits and politicians alike into a false sense of self-sufficiency. While Mississippi is indeed a charitable state, we receive our share of charity as well. That’s why Sid Salters characterization last week of Medicaid as a “ticking time bomb” is both puzzling and disturbing to me. I don’t know about you, but the thought of a ticking time bomb brings nothing positive to my mind. The constant campaign of mistruths, half-truths and outright lies about Medicaid continues to further the theme that Medicaid is a curse and not the blessing that it really is to this state. Medicaid, without a doubt, is one of the surest job creators we have.
When most people think about Medicaid, they immediately think about it as health insurance for the poor-- which to a great degree it is. Medicaid only serves the most vulnerable citizens of our state: the elderly, disabled, pregnant women and children. However, there must be health care professionals and facilities to provide this much needed care.
Additionally, these federal Medicaid funds are used to help support hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, drug stores and overall business activity. As Medicaid expands to meet our needs, the increased economic activity will lead to higher state and local revenues which will offset much, if not all, of the new state costs that keep Salter awake at night. I
The $1.7 billion state costs that Salter alludes to comes from a study done by the Milliman Group last year. This figure assumes that when the Medicaid expansion begins in 2014, 100 percent of Medicaid eligible people will join the program. Politely put, this assumption is a joke. With barriers such as face-to-face certification, it’s difficult enough to enroll eligible children now. A 2010 Kaiser Foundation Report showed that between the years of 2014 and 2019, Mississippi would payout $429 to $581 million dollars, while receiving $9.9 to $11.0 billion in new federal revenue. The new federal funds will exceed state costs by about 20 to 1. With a ratio like that, it’s fiscal insanity not to invest in Medicaid.
Salter falsely assesses Medicaid as an economic time bomb because he fails to recognize the multiplier effect of a multi-billion dollar increase in federal funds and the beneficial effects of insurance coverage for hundreds of thousands of Mississippians. The increased state costs that Mississippi will have to pay will be largely if not completely offset by the state and local revenue generated by the new federal funding, its related economic spinoffs and by the reductions in uncompensated care costs. There comes a time when we have to stop allowing those who know the truth to stop using Medicaid as a political wedge. We can’t continue to rail against Medicaid while happily accepting the economic benefit our state so heartily enjoys because of it.
Executive Director, Mississippi Health Advocacy Program