Postpartum Medicaid expansion should be a ‘no-brainer’

Published 9:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2023

Once again, it seems like a simple proposition.

Should health care coverage for Mississippi mothers on Medicaid be extended to a full year after they give birth to a child?

That’s the proposal before Mississippi legislators this session. While many of the lawmakers have expressed support for expanding Medicaid services, efforts to pass the measure in both the Senate and the House are hampered by politics.

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It’s frustrating enough that Mississippi is one of only 11 states that has not expanded Medicaid. But knowing that among those 11 holdout states Mississippi is only one of two states that has not expanded pregnancy coverage? Well, that’s shameful.

Nearly six in 10 births in Mississippi are covered by Medicaid. And those mothers are facing the uphill battles of poverty, limited access to health care, and living in a state with the nation’s highest infant mortality rate and one of the nation’s highest maternal mortality rates.

In what should be, as one state lawmaker said, a “no-brainer,” the legislation remains stalled by politics.

Last year, the state Senate passed the legislation, endorsed by Senators on both sides of the aisle. This year, the Senate has held hearings with health care experts to continue to sound the alarm about the maternal mortality crisis in our state.

But the legislation hit a political wall in the House, where Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, remains adamantly opposed to any sort of legislation he believes hints at Medicaid expansion.

And now, despite bipartisan support for the expansion, Mississippi still has not taken action to help support some of the most fragile and needy residents of our state.

This week, Mississippi Today undertook a poll of all 174 state lawmakers to find out just where they stand on the issue; not surprisingly, the poll confirms bipartisan support for the measure.

Sen. Kelvin Butler (D-McComb), Rep. Becky Currie (R-Brookhaven), Rep. Bob Evans (D-Monticello); Rep. Michael T. Evans (I-Monticello) all said they support the measure. Sen. Jason Barrett (R-Brookhaven) and Rep. Vince Mangold (R-Brookhaven) did not respond to the poll.

We suspect that same poll was conducted among the voters of Mississippi, most would support expanding postpartum health care coverage under Medicaid as well.

But public opinion polls are no match for politics, as we’ve learned the hard way in our state.  And once again, a seemingly “no-brainer” solution to a critical problem escapes our grasp.

We will say it again: Mississippians deserve state leaders willing to put aside partisan politics to focus on finding solutions. And while that might not be simple to do, it’s absolutely necessary.