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Haggling Over Competing Medicaid Expansion Plans Jeopardizes Effort as Session Nears End

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Medicaid expansion negotiations began among leaders in the Mississippi House and Senate on Tuesday in what could become a landmark plan to expand coverage to tens of thousands of people in one of the poorest states in the U.S.

But even with Republicans controlling both the state House and Senate, it’s far from clear that they will reach a Medicaid expansion compromise during the final days of their four-month session that is scheduled to end by early May.

Mississippi is among the 10 states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage to people who work low-wage jobs that don’t provide private health insurance. Expansion is an option under the federal health care overhaul signed into law in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has said for years that he opposes putting more people on government programs.

Expansion is getting its first serious discussion in the Mississippi Capitol this year because the new House speaker, Republican Jason White, says it is one of his priorities.

The House voted by a wide bipartisan margin in late February to expand Medicaid coverage to about 200,000 people who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level, or $20,120 annually for one person. Mississippi has about 3 million residents, and its Medicaid program covered 374,823 people in March.

In late March, the Senate passed its own pared-down version that would extend eligibility to people earning up to 100% of the federal poverty level, just over $15,000 for one person. Senate Medicaid Committee Chairman Kevin Blackwell, a Republican from Southaven, said about 80,000 people would become eligible for coverage but he thought about half that number would enroll.

House Medicaid Committee Chairwoman Missy McGee, a Republican from Hattiesburg, offered a compromise Tuesday. It would allow Mississippi to receive the full amount of federal money possible for Medicaid expansion. People earning up to 100% of the federal poverty level would be covered by Medicaid, while those earning between 100% and 138% of the federal poverty level would receive subsidies to buy insurance through a federal health insurance exchange.

Senators offered

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