Dan Jones: Gov. Reeves privately acknowledged Medicaid expansion benefits

Former University of Mississippi chancellor Dan Jones said Gov. Tate Reeves told him at a meeting in 2015 that he understood how Medicaid expansion would benefit the state, but couldn’t agree to it for political reasons to use for it.

Jones, who ran the state’s largest hospital, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, before serving as chancellor from 2009 to 2015, gave details of the 2015 meeting about the Republican leadership’s inaction in addressing the problem during a news conference Thursday with leaders of the Democratic Party of the state’s hospital crisis.

“Shortly after I began explaining the benefits of expanding Medicaid, he (Reeves) raised his hand and said, ‘Chancellor, I know it’s good for the people of Mississippi, good for our economy, and good for healthcare would be if we expanded Medicaid,’” Jones recalled. “I had a big smile on my face and said, ‘I’m so glad to hear you’re going to support the expansion.’ His reply: ‘Oh no, I will not support it because it is not in my personal political interest.’”

The revelation about Reeves’ facial expression behind closed doors to Jones directly contradicts the governor’s long-held public stances. Reeves, who previously served as lieutenant governor and state senate chair for eight years, has defiantly opposed Medicaid expansion for more than a decade.

In a speech earlier this week, the governor tripled his opposition to the expansion.

“Don’t just give in to media pressure from Democrats and their allies to push for the expansion of Obamacare, welfare and socialized medicine,” Reeves said during his annual State of the State address on Monday. “You have my word that I will stand by you as you resist the left’s push for endless government health care.”

Reeves’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Jones’ charges Thursday.

Lawmakers working in Jackson through early April are facing mounting pressure to address the state’s deepening hospital crisis. The state health commissioner, Dr. Daniel Edney, warned in December that 38 hospitals across the state could close at short notice due to budget issues. Meanwhile, Mississippi has the highest percentage of uninsured residents who cannot afford health care, leaving hospitals often bearing these costs of care themselves.

CONTINUE READING: “What is your plan, see Rome burn?”: Politicians continue to refuse a solution to the growing hospital crisis

One hospital financing solution that 39 other states — including many Republican-run states — have implemented is expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Economists estimate that Mississippi would receive more than $1 billion in new revenue annually, and hospitals would benefit directly.

Meanwhile, public sentiment for Medicaid expansion is growing. A Mississippi Today/Siena College poll conducted in early January 2023 found that 80% of Mississippi residents, including 70% Republicans, support the expansion.

CONTINUE READING: Poll: 80% of Mississippi residents support Medicaid expansion

Despite the measure’s growing popularity, Republicans who run the state government have not backed down. More than 15 different bills that would have expanded Medicaid — all tabled by Democrats in early 2023 — died in committee earlier this week without receiving a vote or even debate from Republican committee chairs.

House Speaker Philip Gunn has been in step with Reeves in his opposition to the expansion, and Lt. gov. Delbert Hosemann, who has said in the past he is open to any version of the expansion, did not make the issue a priority in this session.

“The governor and the party he leads have sidetracked, sidetracked, and attempted to discredit programs that have had real, positive impacts on health outcomes in other states that have adopted them — some even as red as Mississippi.” Rep Robert Johnson, the leader of the Democratic House of Representatives, said at Thursday’s news conference. “They have downplayed the severity of the crisis, not only diminishing how dangerous the lack of access to medical care is becoming in our state, but also ignoring the economic damage that hospital closures will cause to communities.”

In 2010, Congress passed President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the Medicaid program that allowed states to choose to draw down large sums of federal funds to provide health insurance to mostly poor, working people.

A year later, then-Treasurer Tate Reeves ran for his first term as lieutenant governor, and ran for a second term in 2015. At that point, Jones said, the meeting with Reeves was taking place in the Chancellor’s office in the Lyceum Administration Building.

At that 2015 meeting, Jones said he pointed out to Reeves that as the state Senate leader, he had an opportunity to advocate for the expansion of Medicaid to help hospitals and help poor, working people afford health insurance .

Jones shared three imperatives for expanding Medicaid during Thursday’s press conference: one moral, one economic, and one political.

“Shame on us, shame on us that we have allowed the citizens of Mississippi to have health issues and not have access to health care solutions… it’s immoral,” Jones said. “…It is time we put pressure on our state leaders to go beyond personal political interests and consider the interests of every Mississippi resident who needs access to health care.”

CONTINUE READING: Mississippi leaves more than $1 billion a year on the table by rejecting Medicaid expansion

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