Gov. Tate Reeves' Medicaid plan will help campaign donors but not uninsured Mississippians
The Mississippi governor’s plan would give hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals, but would not expand Medicaid for low-income families.
Republican Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is still refusing to opt in to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, which would provide health insurance to an estimated 230,000 uninsured adults in the state.
Instead, on Sept. 21, Reeves announced plans to boost Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals by hundreds of millions of dollars, directly benefiting his own donors.
The first-term governor is running for reelection and will face Democratic state Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley in the Nov. 7 election. Several of the hospitals that will benefit most from this plan and their top executives have contributed to Reeves’ campaigns.
According to the Mississippi State Department of Health, hospitals would receive $690 million more in Medicaid funds under his plan if it is approved by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Rural hospitals in the state have been struggling financially under Reeves, and dozens face possible closure.
Merit Health’s River Oaks Hospital would see a $17,501,586 increase in payments from Medicaid. While its CEO Sam Dean does not appear to have personally donated to the governor’s campaign, his hospital gave Reeves $5,000 in December 2022.
Memorial Hospital in Gulfport would stand to gain $9,048,381. Its president and CEO, Kent Nicaud, has donated more than $100,000 to Reeves over the course of his political career, including $41,000 in 2022, according to a Mississippi Today report. Nicaud also hosted a December 2020 fundraising event for Reeves. Reeves appointed Nicaud to the Mississippi Gaming Commission in March 2023 and approved a $7 million appropriation in 2022 for his hospital while vetoing $50 million for the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
The North Mississippi Medical Center would receive $33,456,940. President and CEO Shane Spees gave Reeves $1,000 in August 2022.
In total, the three hospitals would benefit by close to $60 million from the proposal.
According to Jackson television station WLBT, Reeves introduced all three CEOs at his press conference announcing the increase as part of a group of supportive medical professionals. “The plan that I’m announcing today is a result of the hard work of the folks standing behind me,” he said. “Over the last four to five months, we’ve worked to put together a proposal that we believe can have a real impact on Mississippi hospitals. I’m thankful for their public service.”
A Reeves spokesperson did not immediately respond to an inquiry for this story.
Presley, Reeves’ opponent, has called for immediate Medicaid expansion to cover lower-income individuals, which would be 90% paid for by the federal government. “Not expanding Medicaid is one of the dumbest decisions that this state has ever made,” he reportedly said at a September campaign event.
Reeves was asked at the event why the state has still not expanded Medicaid coverage.
“The expansion of Obamacare, while [it] certainly adds a significant number of people to the welfare rolls, does not have the kind of financial impact that some of you in the room and some people across the state think that it will have,” he told reporters, according to an ABC News report, falsely claiming that the health insurance program was welfare.
Experts told Mississippi Today that Reeves’ plan will help hospitals but do little to help patients.
“People typically need a lot more care than care in a hospital, and a lot of that care is preventive care… outpatient care,” Adam Searing, an associate professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy Center for Children and Families, told the outlet. “So, the key difference [i]s, this is an issue about the finances of hospitals. And Medicaid expansion is about financial security for families.”
Searing said Reeves’ plan would “improve the financial bottom line for some hospitals,” but warned, “You’re really not solving the problem. You’re just putting a Band-Aid on one aspect of it.”
The Mississippi Democratic Party issued a statement panning Reeves’ proposal.
“This is an election year hail mary that we can see straight through, and Mississippians will still suffer,” state Rep. John Hines said in the statement. “We can not play politics with the health of our people. We must expand Medicaid and end this healthcare crisis once and for all.”
Updated 9-27-23: A spokesperson for Tate Reeves provided the following comment to the American Independent Foundation after publication of this story: “Many hospital leaders are supporters of the governor, and some are opposed. $700 million will go to Mississippi hospitals as a result of this plan.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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