Medicaid matters to many in Mississippi

Published 6:27 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Just how important is Medicaid in Mississippi?

The state has four of the Top 10 rural counties in the country when it comes to the percentage of children on Medicaid. More than 70 percent of children in Jefferson Davis, Holmes, Covington and Leflore counties receive Medicaid. Jeff Davis has the highest percentage at 82.

Why does this matter? Because Republicans in D.C. hope to change how Medicaid is funded when/if Obamacare is repealed and replaced. 

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Their plan would reduce Medicaid spending by 26 percent by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office (there is disagreement over whether this constitutes a “cut”). The plan would also reduce federal deficits by hundreds of billions over the coming decade, according to estimates.

States will have to foot more of Medicaid’s costs under the plan — or reduce health services the program currently pays for.

“Patient advocates predict that would lead to fewer enrollees, more shutdowns of rural facilities, reduced payments to doctors and fewer programs for people with health needs or disabilities. In the aggregate, such changes threaten the health of thousands of state residents, especially those in rural areas,” Kaiser Health News reported.

“The bills would change Medicaid from an entitlement — in which the federal government agrees to pay its share of costs for anyone who qualifies for the program — to a system in which the federal government by 2020 would limit its payments and reimburse states based on a per capita formula,” the website reported.

It’s easy to argue that much of Obamacare was poorly designed and implemented and should be fixed. It’s also easy to argue that federal spending should be reduced. But it’s much harder to argue for reducing Medicaid funding for states that desperately need it. The issue isn’t as clear-cut as political talking heads would have us believe.

Does Obamacare need fixing or replacing? Yes. But changing Medicaid can’t be the best — or only — way to do it.