Such thinking would be a significant shift to the left for Republicans in the Mississippi Legislature.
The hopes of a tiny sliver of Republicans quietly pining for Medicaid expansion reside squarely in the Mississippi State Senate, as House Speaker Philip Gunn and Governor Tate Reeves have repeatedly stated their opposition to further considering the notion in any way, shape or form. Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann, however, continues to not rule it out as the upper chamber’s presiding officer.
The first smoke signal of the Senate’s continued flirtation with Medicaid expansion was raised in an interview with State Senator Chad McMahon who appeared on the Gallo Radio Show on Wednesday morning.
McMahan, a Republican who represents Senate District 6 in Lee County, told Gallo that he was willing to consider Medicaid expansion because of the economics, as the largest employer in his area is the hospital system, and because he wants to improve the health care options for working Mississippians.
“I’m willing to discuss and look at what Medicaid expansion might look like because of the economics,” McMahan said. “I’m also willing to look at because currently in Mississippi 1 out of 3 Mississippians are already on Medicaid. That’s a fact. And I want world class health care for all working Mississippians.”
But what McMahan said next is where he, and perhaps others in the GOP caucus, diverge from traditional conservative philosophy as it relates to Medicaid.
“Medicaid is not a welfare program,” McMahan said passionately. “Medicaid is a minimum government insurance program for those that don’t have.”
The notion that Medicaid is not a welfare program is the narrative Democrats and advocates have used for years to push for Medicaid expansion and for other government taxpayer-funded health care programs, namely the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. The program is wildly unpopular with Mississippi Republican voters.
Medicaid, by definition, is indeed a welfare program as the government through appropriation of tax dollars subsidizes or funds health care for low-income families and individuals that must prove that they qualify for the assistance based on where they fall as it relates to the federal poverty level. Of note, the only federal welfare program that benefits illegal aliens to this country is Medicaid.
Medicaid, along with the Child’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), is one of six government welfare programs commonly used to assist low-income families ideally on a temporary basis. Other welfare programs are Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and federal housing assistance.
Each of these welfare programs have their own criteria for eligibility, but all are geared toward low-income families.
Following an interview with Y’all Politics on Wednesday morning regarding government overreach as it pertains federal COVID vaccine mandates, State Senator Chris McDaniel (R) was asked for his thoughts on Medicaid expansion, and whether he viewed Medicaid as a welfare program.
“Of course, Medicaid is a welfare program,” McDaniel said, noting it began as part of former President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. “It’s a broken program in need of reform, and Medicaid expansion is a terrible idea. What sense does it make to trap able-bodied adults in a lifetime of Medicaid dependency?”
Senator McDaniel went on to say that Medicaid is supposed to be a “safety net, not a lifestyle choice.”
“The goal of policymakers should be to transition individuals out of dependency and back into the private marketplace,” the Jones County Republican state senator said. “Otherwise, Medicaid expenses will continues to explode, and the state’s budget will continue to suffer.”
State Senator Joey Fillingane (R) is the vice chairman of the Senate Medicaid Committee. He told Y’all Politics that there is no denying Medicaid is a welfare program, adding that he and most conservative lawmakers are not in favor of its expansion.
“By design, Medicaid as established by the federal government was intended for temporary assistance for low income families. There’s no denying that it is a government welfare program in that sense,” Fillingane said. “Expanding Medicaid which would increase eligibility and add even more dependents on the government’s back would only grow the size and scope of government, something that I and most conservative policymakers don’t favor.”
Another Republican state senator pushed back on Medicaid expansion when asked for her thoughts. Senator Angela Hill said expanding Medicaid for able bodied working age childless people is the textbook definition of welfare.
“It’s welfare on steroids. It’s nothing but corporate welfare as well,” Hill said, referring to the push by hospital lobbyist who want to see Medicaid expansion.
Senator Hill told Y’all Politics that the Republican Party has never historically been the party of wealth redistribution to fund big government programs.
“There couldn’t be a better time in history for the Republican Party to clearly distance itself from the socialist goals of the Biden Administration,” Hill noted, asking, “Otherwise, how can we be legitimate critics?”
Senator McMahan did say that he does not want to expand Medicaid to anyone unless they are working, adding, “If you’re working in Mississippi you should have access to affordable health care.”
Senator Hill challenged that point, saying there was no way to make individuals work to receive the Medicaid benefits.
“That’s a false talking point created by left leaning Republicans and their corporate buddies,” Hill said.
In fact, Mississippi had requested a waiver from CMS to institute a work requirement but as of today, there is no work requirement for Medicaid recipients in Mississippi.
Yet, this may be a talking point a few left leaning Republicans use to justify some form of Medicaid expansion effort in conjunction with Democrats in the 2022 session which begins in January. Even still, it would face a steep uphill battle in the Mississippi House, and should it find its way to the Governor’s desk, it would almost certainly be vetoed by Governor Reeves.
Then the question will be, how badly will talk of Medicaid expansion impact those Republicans that give oxygen to it in the upcoming 2023 state election cycle?
Currently, Republicans hold the Governor’s mansion and enjoy supermajorities in both legislative chambers. For legislative members in the GOP to entertain expanding welfare programs, including Medicaid, it would signal a sea change to the left in how they view government’s use of tax dollars, the operation of the state budget, and the role of government in daily life.