Gov. Bryant Column: The Truths about ObamaCare in Mississippi

7/23/2012 in News, Policy Initiatives

A recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or more commonly called ObamaCare, has left many people asking what’s next – and what does it mean here in Mississippi.​

While some people say ObamaCare will come as an economic boost with “free” money, the reality is simple: no money is free.

Since when did the federal government ever give free money without asking for something in return? After all, some people tend to forget the so-called “free” money is actually your money.

So let’s talk about the facts as they are in Mississippi.

During fiscal year 2012, the Mississippi Division of Medicaid—the agency in charge of operating most of the Medicaid program in Mississippi–required $3.62 billion in federal funds and $763 million in state funds to directly administer the Medicaid program.  These figures don’t include $210 million in funds used by other agencies like the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Rehabilitation Services to meet their own Medicaid program responsibilities.

That means the conservative total cost to operate the Medicaid program in Mississippi during fiscal year 2012 was more than $4.38 billion as of July of this year. That is at least $3.62 billion of your federal tax dollars plus at least $973 million of your state tax dollars for one year of funding Mississippi Division of Medicaid to administer the current Medicaid program in Mississippi.

This is without the expansions the Obama Administration is attempting to force onto the Mississippi taxpayer.

Now let’s discuss those proposed federal expansions. The federal government wants to give Medicaid to more people—more than what your money is already paying for in Mississippi. The federal government also promised to initially pay 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion costs for the first three years of ObamaCare.

What you do not hear is how the cost burden then increasingly shifts to Mississippi taxpayers.

According to a report requested by the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, the total cost to implement ObamaCare in Mississippi is more than $1.6 billion over 7 years, including an estimated $427 million in 2020 alone. The report, completed by Milliman, a third-party consulting firm, said that 400,000 people could be added to Mississippi’s Medicaid rolls.

This expansion could result in one in three Mississippians being on Medicaid, with an additional cost starting at $68 million and increasing to an additional cost of $427 million annually.

That’s a large burden for the Mississippi taxpayer to assume.

Another domino effect of this expansion that you have heard little about is the potential administrative cost to process the additional Medicaid recipients. Remember how the federal government is claiming it will pay 100 percent of expansion costs for the first few years? Well, that’s not exactly true.

In Mississippi, adding a projected 400,000 individuals to the Medicaid rolls would increase administrative costs by $17 million the first year and $36 million the second year. The Mississippi Division of Medicaid estimates the administrative cost to the state for the first three years of Medicaid expansion is $81 million. This, my fellow Mississippians, is something that the federal government failed to tell you and is a cost we would assume at the very beginning of the expansion.

What’s more, these expansion costs will be added to the enormous amount of money Mississippi already spends on Medicaid.

In fiscal year 2012, for every one dollar Mississippi spent to administer the Medicaid program, it spent about three dollars on K-12 education. If we expand Medicaid, that ratio will get smaller very quickly.

Also in fiscal year 2012, Mississippi spent more than seven times as much money on the existing Medicaid program as we did on economic development and most of our state public safety efforts combined. That’s more than seven times more on Medicaid than on the total spending for MEMA, the National Guard, the Department of Public Safety, the Bureau of Narcotics, the state crime lab, the Mississippi Development Authority and other public safety budgets combined!

No matter on what side of the political spectrum you align yourself, when you look at the bottom line of a potential Medicaid expansion in Mississippi, it is clear we cannot afford this enormous burden.

It would rob our resources for education, public safety and job creation and could very well result in tax increases.

Undoubtedly, it would compromise our state’s resources and leave us with a bill we cannot pay.

Mississippi can do better, and there are real solutions to improving health care.

To start, each of us must assume personal responsibility for our own health and our own choices. Living a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a proper diet can help shrink Mississippi’s obesity rate and the chronic diseases like diabetes that accompany it.  Hazardous activities like smoking erode our health, and we must do all in our power to fight the epidemic of teen pregnancy—an issue that has far-reaching consequences for our state.

At the core is job creation. We must continue working to create an environment where businesses flourish so Mississippians can secure sound employment and fund their own health insurance. We should also purchase health insurance across state lines and work to lower insurance costs by pooling employees of small businesses.

Mississippi can and will do better. As governor, I will fight to protect our future—our education, our safety and our jobs—and that means that I will resist any effort to expand Medicaid in this state.