Sam R. Hall: Are Mississippians getting fed up over the lack of Medicaid expansion?

·3 min read

Jan. 23—Peggy Wildman is fed up with the state of health insurance. The 72-year-old Fulton resident is all but begging for someone to do something to provide relief. Sitting in my office, she was animated and frustrated, and while not hopeless, she seemed more resigned than hopeful over the prospect of help coming anytime soon.

Her oldest brother, 71, is having a bone marrow transplant. His troubles started about a year ago when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Then it spread to his knee.

He is also diabetic and has developed myopathy exhibited as a loss of feeling in his hands and feet.

For 42 years, her brother has worked for the same company. He's continued to drive a truck most of the past year because he can't afford to lose his insurance, for which he still pays about $170 per month.

How long he can continue to work now becomes a real question.

Then there is an additional insurance supplement that costs another $140 per month. Together, medicines are still outrageous and medical bills continue to stack up.

Wildman says she and her husband and her other two brothers pay similar amounts for insurance and carry additional supplements. And while it helps, it is still more expensive than what friends and family in other states pay.

What's more, Wildman and her family are considered the lucky ones. They can still afford insurance, if only barely and for now.

Wildman is an avid reader of news, and she's been following what has happened with insurance costs in other states that have expanded Medicaid. She even carries a couple of newspaper clippings with her in her wallet to show friends. After all, Obamacare is an ugly word — or at least it used to be.

"There are a lot of people who feel like I do, even if they won't say it," Wildman told me. Talking with friends in similar situations, they want relief.

Wildman says Gov. Tate Reeves won't expand Medicaid because it is tied to former President Obama.

"He says we can't afford it, but he really just doesn't want it. We can afford it. We could find ways to pay for it," Wildman said.

After all, only 12 states have not expanded Medicaid. Of the 38 states that have expanded, not a single one has gone bankrupt, had to cut spending due to expansion, or suffered the horrors once feared or currently used as an excuse not to expand. In fact, just about every one of them has seen job growth and revenue increases directly attributed to Medicaid expansion.

And, as readers of this column are well aware, Mississippi's very own state economist released a report last year that showed savings would pay for the expansion, the state would see up to $44 million in additional annual revenues and jobs would increase by about 11,000 per year.

Obamacare is simply not the boogeyman it once was. Working people are feeling the crunch of high insurance costs. Hospitals who lost indigent care reimbursements are hurting. It's mostly politicians who are refusing to acknowledge the benefits of Medicaid expansion.

But don't take my word for it. Just ask Wildman.

"The governor says he doesn't want Obama's insurance. I don't care what kind it is. Just get us some relief."

SAM R. HALL is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at sam.hall@djournal.com or follow @samrhall on Twitter.