Central Miss. Senators Vote on Senate Medicaid Expansion Bill

JACKSON, Miss.–The Medicaid expansion bill that passed out of the state Senate Medicaid Committee Wednesday, was approved by the full Senate Thursday afternoon after over an hour of debate.
Senators Lydia Chassaniol and Jenifer Branning, both Republicans, both voted against the bill and were two of 15 senators to vote nay. Senators Rod Hickman and Bradford Blackmon, voted in favor of the Senate version of expansion.
One Delta senator tried to change the bill back to the way it was when it was passed by the House.
“What we want to do is try to expand or existing program to help those individuals…who desperately need health care, but also generate a billion dollars a year to the State of Mississippi and create new health care jobs,” said Sen. Derrick T. Simmons, of Greenville, who represents Washington, Bolivar and Coahoma counties.
His amendment would have essentially reduced the work requirement to 20 hours per week and would have increased the number of people who would qualify to around 200,000 Mississippians. But, his amendment failed, largely along party lines, with Chassaniol and Branning voting against it.
“We need to do the right thing by our brothers and sisters in this state and provide access to health care. These are working Mississippians. These are mothers. These are women of child-bearing age we need to provide coverage to,” said Simmons, imploring the passage of his amendment.
The version that passed has a much more strict set of qualifications.
You would have to work at least 30 hours per week and would have to make about $15,000 per year or less to qualify under the new plan. That would make about 80,000 more Mississippians eligible than are currently eligible for the state health insurance.
It’s a bill that Senate Medicaid Chairman Sen. Kevin Blackwell said he can live with, though he said he is opposed to the idea of supporting “Obamacare Medicaid Expansion”.
“I’ve been on record as opposing Obamacare Medicaid expansion, so when the lieutenant governor asked me to work on healthcare reform, I had a little heartache,” said Blackwell. “I told him I could not support an Obamacare expansion bill, nor could many of my Republican colleagues.”
Sen. John Horhn, a Democrat, said he would vote for the bill, but did not care for its strict parameters.
The bill now goes back to the House and will likely go to conference where both sides are expected to come up with changes.