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Medicaid Expansion ‘Lite’ Proposal Advances in Mississippi Senate, Would Cover Fewer People

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A proposal to expand Medicaid to tens of thousands of residents in one of the poorest states in the U.S. is still alive in the Mississippi Legislature. But Senate Republicans changed the plan Wednesday so it would cover far fewer people and bring less federal money to the state.

Mississippi’s Republican-controlled Legislature is considering expansion after years of opposition to the policy allowed under the Affordable Care Act, a 2010 federal health overhaul signed by then-President Barack Obama. The proposal passed by a committee Wednesday is the only Medicaid expansion proposal still alive after Senate Republicans tweaked a House bill rather than advance a separate bill of their own.

“We have a conservative plan over here,” said Senate Medicaid Committee Chairman Kevin Blackwell. “The House version was basically straight-up expansion.”

Dubbing the plan Medicaid expansion “lite,” Blackwell said it would increase eligibility for the government-funded health insurance program that covers low-income people. But it extends eligibility only to those making up to 100% of the federal poverty level, just over $15,000 for one person. That is down from the 138% figure approved by the House, just under $21,000 for one person.

Mississippi has about 3 million residents, and its Medicaid program covered 754,585 people in January. House Medicaid Committee Chairwoman Missy McGee said her proposal could extend benefits to as many as 200,000 people. Blackwell said the new version of the bill approved by his committee could make 80,000 people eligible for expanded coverage, but he projects only about 40,000 would enroll.

Many Mississippi lawmakers have said expansion without a work requirement is a nonstarter. The Senate version would require people to work at least 30 hours per week to become eligible for expanded benefits, up from the 20-hour work requirement approved by the House. Blackwell said the Senate made that change because it ensures able-bodied adults would need to work “basically full time” to receive Medicaid.

Mississippi 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

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