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Senate killing its Medicaid expansion bill without a vote, continues work on a plan

The Republican-controlled Senate will delay voting on a bill to expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor this week while it works to build support among members for its own version of an expansion plan. 

Senate Medicaid Committee Chairman Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven, on Tuesday said that he will let a Senate bill to expand Medicaid die on Thursday’s deadline to pass all Senate bills in the full chamber. 

Instead, Blackwell said he plans to use the House’s Medicaid expansion bill that overwhelmingly passed that chamber last month and amend it by inserting a Senate plan. That Senate plan has yet to be made public, and Senate leaders including Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann have provided scant details. The Senate’s bill to-date was a “dummy bill” that contained only code sections required to expand Medicaid with no details or new policy.

READ MORE: Where’s the plan? Senate still has only ‘dummy bill’ for Medicaid expansion

“We’re going to do a strike-all amendment on the House plan,” Blackwell said. 

Blackwell did not disclose any details of an expansion plan, but he’s previously said his proposal would contain a work requirement for those who enroll in the expanded coverage — something experts have told lawmakers would not receive needed federal approval.

The deadline for Blackwell to advance the House bill out of his committee is April 2. 

The decision to delay a full vote on an expansion plan allows the 52-member Senate chamber to delay a potentially bitter debate over the proposal when numerous Capitol observers have speculated the GOP-controlled chamber may not have enough support to pass an expansion measure with a veto-proof majority. 

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves remains steadfastly opposed to expansion and has privately told senators he will veto any expansion legislation that reaches his desk. 

READ MORE: Gov. Tate Reeves privately tells senators he will veto any Medicaid expansion bill

Numerous studies show expanding Medicaid would provide health care coverage to at least 200,000 people in one of the poorest, unhealthiest states and that it would help the states foundering hospitals, create jobs and help the overall state economy. The federal government would pay most of the cost of expanded coverage, and under the House proposal, hospitals would cover the state’s share beyond.

Physicians from around the state convened at the Capitol on Thursday afternoon to urge lawmakers to pass a measure to expand Medicaid coverage.

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