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Medicaid Expansion Talks Crumble As Lieutenant Governor Nixes Ballot Referendum Proposal

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The first serious effort by Mississippi’s Republican-led Legislature to expand Medicaid appeared to be crumbling Thursday as leaders argued over whether to let voters decide the issue.

Under pressure during the final days of a four-month session, House and Senate negotiators released a proposal Monday to authorize Medicaid coverage for tens of thousands more low-income people, but it included a work requirement.

House Democrats balked before the plan could come up for a vote, saying it was Medicaid expansion in name only because the federal government has blocked several states from having such mandates.

Mississippi is one of the poorest states and has some of the worst health outcomes. Some business leaders, clergy members and health advocates are lobbying for Mississippi to join 40 other states in expanding Medicaid as allowed under the health overhaul law signed by then-President Barack Obama in 2010.

After more negotiations Wednesday, House Speaker Jason White said his chamber would file a new proposal Thursday. It would put two questions on the ballot this November: Should Mississippi expand Medicaid? If so, should the expansion include a work requirement?

“For years, the response to Medicaid expansion was not just no, but entirely dismissed; with this ballot referendum, Mississippians will now have a seat at the table on how we improve healthcare outcomes in our state,” White said in a statement.

Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said Wednesday night that the proposal to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot “was not well received” by Senate leaders.

“We are disappointed in the outcome this year, but value the discussions which occurred this Session — the first time this Legislature has seriously considered healthcare reform in our state,” Hosemann said. “I remain committed to finding ways to increase access for working Mississippians who otherwise do not have the resources for a simple check-up or an extended hospital stay.”

Hosemann said Senate leaders are firm about having a work requirement “with necessary exceptions.”

Even if legislators agree on a plan, they face a likely veto from Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who refers to Medicaid as welfare

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