We find comments this week from Mississippi Medicaid Executive Director David Dzielak troubling. He seemed to suggest to a state Senate committee that spending money to help more of the state’s low-income citizens have access to Medicaid might not improve their health.
This is an odd position to take for the fellow who is supposed to be an advocate for the program he runs. We suppose he’s trying to hew to the company line of Gov. Phil Bryant, who opposes expanding Medicaid.
Mississippi must decide whether to expand Medicaid as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. The Medicaid portion goes into effect in January 2014. Currently in Mississippi, Medicaid is available only to low income citizens who are pregnant, a parent or relative caretaker of a dependent child under age 19, blind, have a disability or a family member with a disability, or 65 years or older. The expansion would allow Medicaid for people whose income is up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $23,800 for a family of three. That could add as many as 300,000 people to state state Medicaid program.
The non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation predicts that between 2012 and 2019, the expansion would cost the state $429 million, but would bring $9.9 billion in federal money to the state.
We think the two biggest priorities for state government are educating its citizens and improving their health. We rank low nationally in both areas.
It’s a simple issue, really. The federal government wants to help Mississippi fulfill its responsibility to its citizens by sending us lots of tax money generated in other states. The catch is we need to chip in to help ourselves.
Mississippi cannot afford to turn down massive influxes of federal help for education or health care.