By some estimates, the expansion would add 400,000 people to the state's Medicaid rolls, increasing enrollment from the current 1 in 5 Mississippi residents to about 1 in 3. Mississippi is spending nearly $822 million of its own money on Medicaid in the current fiscal year, or almost 15 percent of the state-funded portion of the overall state budget.
Among the estimated 476,000 uninsured Mississippians who could be added to Medicaid is Wilna Alexander, 54, of Jackson. She said she earned $12,000 to $13,000 last year as a part-time cook. She said was on Medicaid but lost coverage more than two years ago when she began working. She said she has never had a regular doctor.
"Most of the time, when I go to the hospital, I have to be real sick," Alexander said.
She said that during one visit to University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, she was found to have strep throat. She had to borrow money to buy antibiotics. The hospital gave her a list of "free" clinics, but Alexander found that one near her house demanded $80 to see her.
Democratic state Sen. Hob Bryan said turning down the federal money for Medicaid expansion would be wrong. "It will mean thousands of jobs for the state and it will mean additional revenue for the state general fund and it will mean hundreds of thousands of people will get better health care," he said.
But House Appropriations chairman Rep. Herb Frierson, a Republican, said federal money doesn't fall from the sky: "It comes out of somebody's pocket."
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