May 20, 2021 - Health

Group suspends Mississippi Medicaid expansion ballot initiative

Illustration of a ball of crumpled paper evolving into a red cross

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

An organizing committee working to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot in Mississippi called “Yes on 76" suspended its campaign Wednesday.

The big picture: The decision to drop efforts comes after the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled last Friday the state's entire ballot initiative process is “unworkable and inoperative” due to outdated language in the state's constitution.

Why it matters: Ballot initiatives have been an effective tool in getting Medicaid expansion passed in conservative states that are traditionally against the measure.

  • Six states have expanded Medicaid through ballot initiatives.
  • Last week, Missouri Gov. Mike Parsons (R) withdrew plans to expand Medicaid, in his state after the state legislature refused the fund the expansion.

By the numbers: About 25% of Mississippi's population receives health benefits under Medicaid or CHIP, a 2020 annual report shows.

  • Supporters of Initiative 76 estimated the expansion would extend coverage to about 200,000 more people.
  • The federal government currently pays about 82% of Medicaid expenses in Mississippi.

What they're saying: The 'Yes on 76' coalition will continue to "urge elected leaders in Mississippi to expand Medicaid to deliver healthcare, help keep our rural hospitals open and bring our tax dollars home from Washington," per a statement.

  • "We’ve witnessed unprecedented support for Medicaid expansion in recent weeks, and we are committed to keeping up the momentum that our campaign has created."

The other side: While Medicaid expansion was a top issue during the 2019 gubernatorial election, Mississippi's Governor Tate Reeves (R) opposes expansion, "making it unlikely that the state will take up expansion through legislation," the Kaiser Family Foundation notes.

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