Are lawmakers finally listening to us?

Published 10:09 am Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Could lawmakers actually be listening to Mississippi voters?

This week the Republican set to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives acknowledged voters’ desires for Medicaid expansion and put forth the first real confirmation that lawmakers will seriously address the issue.

“We are going to have full discussion on (Medicaid expansion) and on all facets of health care in Mississippi,” Rep. Jason White told Mississippi Today.

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White is the heir apparent to the House speakership and follows Philip Gunn, who with Gov. Tate Reeves blatantly refused to consider Medicaid expansions in the state.

And while White isn’t backing down from his conservative Republican beliefs, he is at least willing to make sure lawmakers consider the issue, acknowledging it was one of the most discussed topics among voters as he campaigned with fellow Republicans across the state this summer.

That’s no surprise to the thousands of Mississippians who have been calling for help for the working poor for years now.

A recent poll conducted by Mississippi Today reinforces the public’s desires: 72 percent of people polled favor Medicaid expansion and 92 percent – a shockingly large amount – expressed concern about the hospital crisis in the state.

The health care issues we continue to face in Mississippi are embarrassing. Our state continues to rank among the worst in the nation for infant mortality and maternal health. Rural hospitals are closing due to lack of funding; nearly half the hospitals in the state are in financial straits. Our people are among the poorest and least healthy in the nation. And health care deserts are developing in rural areas where people don’t have access to the care and services they need.

Compound those challenges with state lawmakers whose conservative beliefs were so blinding they forfeited nearly $1 billion in federal funding with their steadfast refusal to expand Medicaid, and you have the bleak reality of health care in Mississippi today.

Even White admits “Republicans have probably earned a little bit of the bad rap we get on health care in Mississippi.

Gov. Delbert Hosemann, who has long been a sole voice in the GOP pushing for real solutions on these issues, has won re-election. What has gone record promising ‘a real, real discussion changes for health care in Mississippi.”

Dare we hope those lawmakers are finally listening to us?