State economist refutes politicians’ claim that Mississippi cannot afford Medicaid expansion

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, September 16, 2021

The most common refrain of prominent Mississippi elected officials who have long rejected the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act — that the state cannot afford the costs of the program — was refuted this week by the state’s leading economic expert.

State Economist Corey Miller, a researcher employed by the state’s public university system, released a comprehensive report this week showing that expanding Medicaid would effectively pay for itself and the state would incur no new expenditures.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government would cover 90% of the health care costs related to expansion, while Mississippi would have to cover 10%. The economists found that the 10% state match would be more than covered by health care-related savings to the state and new tax revenue generated.

Two of Mississippi’s most prominent elected officials — Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn — oppose Medicaid expansion, repeating that the state cannot afford the costs. But this week’s research directly refutes their claim for Mississippi, one of just 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid.

“Based on our estimates of the costs and savings associated with Medicaid expansion, Mississippi could enter Medicaid expansion in 2022 and incur little to no additional expenditures for at least the first decade of expansion,” Miller and senior economist Sondra Collins wrote in the report.

What’s at stake, the researchers found, is providing health care coverage to between 228,000 and 233,000 Mississippians who are not currently insured. This estimate primarily includes Mississippians who politicians often refer to as the “working poor” — people who are employed but cannot afford health insurance.