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House Republicans, seeking last-minute Medicaid expansion deal, propose letting voters decide the issue

House Republicans on Wednesday night announced they will ask the Senate to agree to a proposal that would place Medicaid expansion on November’s statewide ballot and let voters decide if hundreds of thousands of working Mississippians should have access to health insurance.

Should Senate leaders agree to the House proposal, this issue would likely become the months-long focus of Mississippi politics and bring national attention to the Magnolia State during a contentious presidential election year.

House Speaker Jason White, a Republican from West, said in a statement that it became clear over the last few days that House and Senate Republicans were still far from agreement over the best way to expand Medicaid coverage.

The bill narrowly escaped death on Wednesday afternoon until House Democrats forced a procedural vote that granted everyone more time to find compromise.

“This session proved that a consensus has formed and we all share the same goal: to provide healthcare access to low-income Mississippians,” White said. “Creating a referendum process for this issue is a clear direction forward. We hope that our colleagues in the Senate will take this opportunity to finally hear from the electorate once and for all.”

READ MORE: Lawmakers buy one more day to reach Medicaid expansion compromise

It’s unclear how Senate leaders will respond to the latest proposal. A spokesperson for Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, the leader of the Senate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The House’s full proposal was not made available on Wednesday night, but White’s statement said the proposed referendum would be two-fold: Voters would decide if they think Medicaid should be expanded to the working poor and if the program should include work requirements for recipients.  

House Democratic caucus leadership said in a statement Wednesday night that if the language in the House’s referendum is “very clear” and allows working Mississippians to get the “health care we know that they need,” then they would likely support the new proposal. 

“We are excited about the opportunity to finally give the people of this state a chance to voice what we know to be — that they want this, and they want it as quickly as possible,” read a statement from Reps. Robert Johnson and Daryl Porter, the House Democratic leaders. 

If Senate negotiators agree to the House’s latest offer, the earliest the two chambers could vote on the measure is on Thursday. If the Senate rejects the offer, the two chambers have until Thursday at 8 p.m. to agree on another compromise proposal or kill the idea altogether. 

Note: This article will be updated.

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