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Providing Medicaid to Working Poor Mississippians Isn’t Welfare, It’s Health Care

Low-income Mississippi residents face significant challenges in accessing affordable health care. In 2021, Mississippi had the fifth-highest uninsured rate in the country. Today, nearly one in five residents in this state live in poverty. Mississippi’s health-care system also ranks last among all states across various measures of access to health care, quality of care, health-care utilization, cost of care, health outcomes, and income-based health-care disparities. The most vulnerable residents are at risk for the worst health outcomes.

In 2022, a Black Mississippi mom gave birth to a healthy 7-pound, 5-ounce baby boy. Let’s name her Linda. Two days later, Linda left the hospital with her baby boy Malachi, and she stayed at home with him for three weeks as she healed. She wanted to nurse and care for him for at least the remaining three weeks her job allotted her for maternity leave. However, that job wasn’t paying Linda during her absence. Three weeks was all she could afford to stay at home without pay.    

Linda returned to work a glowing new mom, but with slight disappointment in her eyes every day as she left her newborn at a daycare center she could barely afford. Eight weeks after giving birth, the guilt of leaving her baby started to weigh on Linda. She became depressed and felt like she wasn’t the best mom he deserved, even when she was with Malachi. This sadness affected her more with each day until it ultimately snowballed into other health issues.   

Just a year ago, Linda had no choice but to try to will herself back to health on her own because postpartum health care ended six weeks after childbirth in Mississippi. Now that postpartum Medicaid has expanded, mothers like Linda will have a year of access to the healthcare they need during the most detrimental time to them and their babies. That’s a win for Mississippi, but what about the other 300,000 poor, working Mississippians without health coverage?  

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Mississippi remains one of only 10 states that has avoided Medicaid expansion despite economists saying the policy would not only bring health coverage to those hundreds

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