JACKSON, Miss. – Today, a growing coalition of Mississippi doctors, nurses, patients, small business owners, non-profit organizations, health advocates, and hospitals launched a statewide campaign to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot.
After waiting a decade for state politicians to fix a problem that has left more than 200,000 hardworking Mississippians without healthcare, the medical community and voters across the state declared they had waited long enough, kicking off what is expected to be one of the largest, broadest, non-partisan ballot campaigns in the state’s history.
“For too long, Mississippi has sent our tax dollars off to Washington only to watch that money go to states like California and New York to pay for their healthcare instead. That needs to change,” said Dr. John Gaudet of Hattiesburg, who filed the initiative. “As physicians, we want to bring our tax dollars home to take care of our patients here — just like Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma have all done.
“It’s time to let the voters decide,” Gaudet said at the campaign’s launch event. Doctors and healthcare employees were among the first to sign the petition that would put Medicaid expansion on the ballot. The newly launched Yes on 76 campaign must collect 106,190 signatures.”
The state’s decision not to expand Medicaid has hit rural Mississippi particularly hard. Six rural hospitals in the state have closed their doors for good in recent years, and nearly half of all rural hospitals are now at risk of closure.
“Medicaid expansion is critical to keeping these rural hospitals open, and that’s something we all need — whether you have insurance right now or not,” said Tim Moore, president of the Mississippi Hospital Association. “When a member of your family is having a heart attack, a stroke or is injured on the farm, you can’t afford to drive long distances to get emergency care.”
In many rural communities, hospitals and the healthcare industry also serve as the largest employers. Medicaid expansion is expected to create jobs and put more than a billion dollars back into the local economy.
Jonathan Smith, an Amory resident who would be eligible for Medicaid expansion, drove across the state to be at the Yes on 76 launch event. Smith has been battling a rare cancer of the nervous system the past four years. He struggles with pain daily and has had multiple procedures, including brain surgery to remove cancerous tumors.
Smith said: “Doctors try to work with me. They bill me for what I would pay with a normal copay, and they put the rest straight to collections. Family members try to help with a few hundred dollars here and there, but I have no way to pay all these thousands upon thousands of dollars back. Nor would anyone else in my situation.
“People should be able to see a doctor and catch diseases like mine early, and when people are battling cancer, the last thing they should be worried about is if they can afford the treatment. They should be focused on getting better.”
Initial supporters of the ballot measure include the Mississippi Hospital Association, Mississippi NAACP, SPLC Action Fund, ACLU of Mississippi, Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Mississippi Center for Justice, and Mississippi Health Advocacy Program.
“There are more than 200,000 Mississippians who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to pay for private insurance,” said SPLC Action Fund Mississippi Policy Director Brandon Jones. “These people should not have to decide between groceries or healthcare. Medicaid expansion would ensure that working Mississippians get the care they need.”
Healthcare advocates and business leaders have stressed for years that passing Medicaid expansion is both the right and fiscally responsible thing to do. In addition to returning more than a billion of the state’s tax dollars every year from Washington, recent changes to federal law would provide Mississippi with a large financial bonus for expanding Medicaid. The state is expected to save more than $800 million in the first two years alone if it passes Medicaid expansion.
BROADCAST QUALITY VIDEO FROM THE KICKOFF EVENT IS AVAILABLE. Contact press@YesOn76.org or Shawn Rossi at 601-506-2201.