Local legislators response to medicaid expansion dying

Published 3:59 pm Tuesday, June 4, 2024

BROOKHAVEN — Lincoln County legislators Sen. Jason Barrett and Rep. Becky Currie offered reflections on the Mississippi legislature failing to expand Medicaid at a legislative breakfast held on May 16. Talks at the end of the session broke down and efforts to expand medicaid died. 

Barrett said he was proud of the fact the legislature discussed a bill in depth. He added the legislature as a whole is less about “open debate,” and more about legislators getting votes before going on the floor without giving legislators enough time to read the bills. Medicaid was one of those bills

“I’m not voting for a bill that long in a short amount of time. It would be irresponsible of me to,” Barrett said. “This year the house and senate had different medicaid bills. I voted against the senate bill. It was a direct copy of Georgia’s bill with a work requirement.” 

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The work requirement would have funded the poverty level but required anyone on medicaid to work 30 hours a week. It would require a federal waiver to have a work requirement. Barrett said he voted against the bill. 

“I know our hospitals are in a tough spot but the state of Georgia’s work requirement is an unmitigated disaster. In four months, it cost $22 million in administrative costs,” Barrett said. 

Out of the 12 medicaid expansion bills with a work requirement, 11 were rejected all under the Joe Biden administration. Georgia’s work requirement was approved under the Donald Trump administration. 

Barrett said his suggestion to Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann was to go ahead and apply for the work requirement and get back to legislating the expansion in January, if it was granted it would be great. He added there were talks about letting the voters decide. 

“I want to be the voice of the people. When you live in a county or a city and your only voice is your representative then the initiative process gives a voice. I supported a referendum for health care,” Barrett said. The initiative idea did not pass and failed. 

He said he welcomes comments and questions. 

A nurse’s perspective

Rep. Becky Currie said the medicaid expansion bill gave her the most heartburn this year. She is a republican but understands the reasons behind medicaid expansion as a registered nurse. 

Currie explained in the house they used a plain bill and sent it to the senate where they had great conversations. The talks broke down towards the end in conferee negotiations.

As a nurse, she explained one of the reasons hospital bills can be high is because the customer is paying for the other 10 people who did not pay their bill. She wants to help people more than anything. 

“Healthcare is broken. They make it difficult. The fraud and abuse is already there,” Currie said. “If I can help the people at Walmart and the working poor I have no problem. I want to help those who don’t work too. We need to iron it out. We need to watch rebate money and we have to figure it out. All we do is talk but we never get anything done.”