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Medicaid Expansion Headed to Mississippi House Floor For Vote

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi is one step closer to what would be a landmark shift in health care policy, with the Republican-led House preparing to debate expansion of Medicaid benefits to hundreds of thousands more residents in one of the poorest states in the U.S.

The House Medicaid Committee on Tuesday advanced the bill, which would increase eligibility for Medicaid, a health insurance program that covers low-income people. Those making up to 138% of the federal poverty level, or $20,120 annually for a single person, would be eligible under the proposal. The measure could extend benefits to about 250,000 people.

“Our health metrics will improve, we’ll see greater access to care, and hopefully start to see a healthier Mississippi where our folks are getting treatment earlier rather than later,” said Republican Missy McGee, the committee chairwoman.

Mississippi has the highest rate of preventable deaths in the U.S. Its top health official has said it ranks at the bottom of virtually every health care indicator and at the top of every disparity. Hospitals are struggling to remain open. The state also has one of the nation’s lowest labor force participation rates. Expansion proponents have said the policy could help ameliorate these conditions.

The move follows years of Republican opposition to the expansion allowed under the Affordable Care Act, a 2010 federal health overhaul signed by then-President Barack Obama. Opponents of Medicaid expansion say the program would foster government dependency, increase wait times for health services and push people off private insurance.

Until this year, Mississippi’s legislative Republicans never held a hearing to consider Medicaid expansion. Debate stalled due to opposition from party leaders, including Gov. Tate Reeves, who on Tuesday repeated his stance that the government “should not run health care.” But new Republican House Speaker Jason White, who sponsored the Medicaid expansion bill with McGee, says he wants legislators to consider the policy as a way to bring hundreds of millions of federal money each year to the state.

McGee touted a financial incentive for expanding Medicaid provided by Congress in the American Rescue Plan. The bonus helped with

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