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Mississippi House Speaker’s Report: Medicaid Expansion and more



jason white

JACKSON, Miss. – Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives Jason White delivered a legislative update to members of the Mississippi Press Association on Friday in Biloxi.

The luncheon event covered topics such as tax reform, mobile sports betting, and a new funding formula for K-12 public education, with Medicaid expansion dominating discussions.

Recapping the Medicaid Expansion Effort

White, a Republican from West, reported that the House introduced a bill to address the coverage gap faced by working Mississippians who earn too much for Medicaid but struggle to afford health insurance. The issue gained priority after Republican members heard concerns from constituents during the 2023 election cycle.

During the 2024 legislative session, the House proposed full Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act for those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. By committing to full expansion, the state could have received a higher federal reimbursement rate of 90 percent for the expansion population, while current Medicaid enrollees would retain the state’s 77 percent federal match rate.

Speaker White highlighted tax and other provisions in the bill aimed at covering the state’s 10 percent share for the first four years. He also noted that the bill included a four-year repealer, allowing the next administration to decide on continuation.

He emphasized that many Mississippians currently making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level cannot afford insurance. Currently, those earning between 100-150 percent of the federal poverty level can access no-premium private health insurance plans on the federal exchange under the Affordable Care Act.

White explained that these subsidized plans often come with high deductibles and co-pays, which deter their use among about 200,000 enrollees in Mississippi.

“If traditional expansion had occurred up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, approximately 181,000 enrolled Mississippians would have transitioned from ACA plans to Medicaid,” White stated.

Even if the bill had passed both legislative bodies, Speaker White acknowledged that Governor Tate Reeves (R) would not have signed it.

“He and I discussed it extensively, and he rightly points out, ‘My opponent campaigned on Medicaid expansion, and I defeated him,’” White noted, referring to the 2023 election cycle.

However, Speaker White believes that Governor Reeves was re-elected not solely due to his stance on Medicaid but because of his conservative platform.

Medicaid Uncertainties

Regarding uncertainties about the number of new Medicaid enrollees, White admitted that similar state actions had seen varying predictions.

“We’re looking at potentially adding anywhere from 50,000 to 250,000 people, but that’s speculative,” White commented.

Currently, approximately 718,000 Mississippians are enrolled in Medicaid programs, accounting for about one-fourth of the state’s 2.9 million population. The Mississippi Legislature approved a $7.9 billion Medicaid budget this year, making it the largest single expenditure by Mississippi’s government.

“Almost a billion dollars is spent on Medicaid currently, so any additional costs would be on top of that,” White added.

Despite the failure of expansion this year, Speaker White anticipates continued discussions in the 2025 session.

Education Changes

One significant legislative achievement this year was the implementation of a new funding model for K-12 public education. The Mississippi Student Funding Formula, based on the House’s initial plan, includes a weighted funding system that allocates an additional $230 million to districts in most need.

Speaker White clarified that top-performing school districts are unlikely to see increased funding, as the focus was on assisting previously neglected districts.

Other education-related topics discussed at the Press luncheon included the need for a new accountability model and school choice.

White briefly mentioned plans for an accountability model, indicating future discussions with consistently underperforming districts.

Regarding school choice, Speaker White noted increasing parental demand for the option to transfer children to other public schools within the district, with state funding following the student.

Although Mississippi law currently allows open enrollment between public schools, both schools involved must agree to the transfer. Recent proposals have suggested eliminating the school losing the student’s ability to veto the transfer.

White also mentioned the possibility of establishing magnet schools on university and college campuses with available space, a concept discussed with Governor Reeves.

“So, Republicans will continue to push for these measures based on constituent feedback,” White affirmed.

Select Committee Work

Recently, Speaker White announced the formation of several new legislative committees, including those focusing on tax reform, rising prescription costs, and healthcare issues related to certificate of need laws (CON laws).

The tax reform committee aims to reduce reliance on individual income tax while lowering the sales tax on groceries, currently taxed at the state’s standard 7.0 percent rate.

White noted recent years of surplus revenue allowing funding for Mississippi Department of Transportation projects. However, he stressed the need for sustainable solutions beyond annual billion-dollar surpluses.

“There won’t always be surplus funds to allocate to MDOT for projects,” White warned.

Regarding the highest grocery tax in the nation, Speaker White acknowledged the challenge of reducing the rate while ensuring city revenues remain intact.

Mobile Sports Betting

An effort to extend mobile sports betting to all Mississippi residents outside of casinos failed due to concerns from a few operators and legislators.

White explained that issues such as gambling addiction and spending habits among young males influenced the bill’s restrictions, such as banning credit card use for betting.

Despite setbacks, discussions on mobile sports betting will continue, driven by the potential tax revenue of $35 to $60 million for road and bridge projects.

This report was written by Jeremy Pittari and originally published in the Magnolia Tribune.

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