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Speaker, lieutenant governor disagree on sending Medicaid expansion to the ballot

As Mississippi lawmakers continue to have differences over if and how to expand Medicaid, House Speaker Jason White’s idea to allow voters to decide on the matter is not being welcomed by the Senate.

On Wednesday evening, the Republican speaker announced his chamber’s plan to submit a ballot referendum to their cross-chamber counterparts as negotiations between leaders stalled in recent days.

“Today, the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Senate recommitted HB 1725, the Medicaid expansion legislation, for further consideration, and in the morning, the House will deliver to the Senate a signed conference report to proceed with a statewide ballot referendum on the issue,” White said. “Moving through the final stages of the legislative process, it became apparent that opinions differed on the best way to address our healthcare crisis.”

Within two hours of White’s announcement, Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann issued a statement, virtually shutting down the possibility of a ballot referendum. While Hosemann did not provide his own opinion on the idea, he alluded to most senators being against it.

“We had some discussions with senators today about the possibility of a nonbinding referendum on the ballot, and the idea was not well received,” Hosemann said. “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.”

The now-moribund suggestion from White came as House members overwhelmingly supported a plan earlier in the year to expand Medicaid coverage up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) with a tentative work requirement in place, meaning the deal would not falter if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) denied the state’s waiver. The Senate responded with a plan of their own – one that would not draw from the federal government’s 90 percent cost match like the House’s – that would expand up to 100 percent of the FPL with a strict work requirement in place.

Throughout negotiations last week, the Senate did concede some ground with its submission of a plan that went up to

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