The budget vote passed by Senate Democrats over the weekend and is now up for a vote in the House of Representatives offers no help to poor Mississippi residents trying to get health insurance.
Sharon Parrott, President of the Washington DC-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, while generally praising the bill, said, “However, the current bill does nothing to provide affordable coverage for the more than 2 million people with incomes below the poverty line to provide lineage who are uninsured because their states have refused to accept the Medicaid expansion. Most people in the Medicaid coverage gap live in the South, and three out of five are black.”
An earlier version of the bill under review last fall provided a mechanism for people living below the federal poverty line (about $13,550 a year) to get health insurance. The proposal was specifically designed to provide a health care option for the poor in the 12 states, including Mississippi, that have not expanded Medicaid. But at the time, the Democratic leadership in the Senate could not muster the 50 votes needed to pass the so-called Reconciliation Act. Democratic Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona opposed the sweeping $3.5 trillion bill for a variety of reasons not necessarily related to health care.
Over the weekend, Sinema and Manchin came on board to help pass a scaled-down, $669 billion version of the reconciliation bill — dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act — that included numerous items, including:
Various tax credits and other incentives for electric vehicles and other green energy technologies.
A minimum tax of 15% for large companies.
Caps on insulin for Medicare beneficiaries.
A provision that allows Medicare to negotiate the cost of drugs.
More subsidies to help people get private insurance in the healthcare marketplace.
Health care, which was included in the earlier version of the bill but dropped from last week’s proposal, would allow those falling below the federal poverty line to receive private health insurance, paid for by the federal government through the health care exchange .
Under current law, individuals whose income is below the federal poverty line do not qualify for marketplace policies.
According to an analysis by Judith Solomon, health policy analyst at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, two million Americans could access health care through the plan, with the bulk of them in Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Republican politicians in the southern states in particular have spoken out against the expansion of Medicaid.
In Mississippi, studies have estimated that between 200,000 and 300,000 primarily working Mississippi citizens could be eligible for coverage if the state expanded Medicaid.
If Mississippi were to expand Medicaid under current law, the federal government would pay 90% of health care costs and the state would pay the rest. Governor Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn, and others have argued that Mississippi could absorb the cost of expanding Medicaid not afford, although several studies have found that the expansion, including the infusion of billions of dollars in federal funds, would actually increase state revenues.
Of course, dangling from non-Medicaid expansion states, there’s still considerable incentive to expand Medicaid. The Federal American Rescue Plan, adopted in early 2021 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, provides states with additional incentive to expand Medicaid. Mississippi’s incentive to expand Medicaid is more than $600 million over two years.
The anti-inflation bill is likely to pass the House in the coming days and be sent to President Joe Biden, who is expected to sign it into law.