Medicaid expansion is a sensible move for literally every state, but Mississippi, with more than its share of residents who lack insurance, live near the poverty line, and suffer from poor health, needs the policy more than most. Even Mississippi's insurance commissioner, a conservative Republican, has urged Gov. Phil Bryant (R) to put aside ideology and embrace the provisions of "Obamacare" for the good of the state.
But Bryant has refused. Last March, the governor said he wouldn't accept Medicaid expansion in part because the Affordable Care Act is not "the law of the land." By any standard, the argument was gibberish.
This week, the Republican governor came up with a new argument.
"For us to enter into an expansion program would be a fool's errand. I mean, here we would be saying to 300,000 Mississippians, 'We're going to provide Medicaid coverage to you,' and then the federal government through Congress or through the Senate, would do away with or alter the Affordable Care Act, and then we have no way to pay that. We have no way to continue the coverage."
Let's think about this for a minute. There are, by everyone's estimation, several hundred thousand folks in Mississippi who would benefit from Medicaid expansion. According to Bryant, the state could help them, but he doesn't want to -- because in his mind, Congress might repeal the health care law at some point in the future, and the state wouldn't be able to afford to pick up the slack.
But even by GOP standards, it's impossible to take this seriously. For one thing, it's pretty obvious Congress isn't going to repeal the law, as even the most right-wing lawmakers on Capitol Hill are grudgingly conceding.
For another, even in the extraordinarily unlikely event that the law is repealed sometime after 2017, Mississippi could simply revert back to its current policy once the federal well runs dry. In other words, Bryant is effectively telling struggling families, "We'll refuse to help you now because of the remote possibility we may no longer be able to help you later. It's better to leave you with nothing now and for the foreseeable future than risk helping you and your family for the next several years."
There is simply no defense for such nonsense.
Postscript: In the same interview, the governor was asked about drug testing, and why it's limited to welfare recipients, as opposed to corporate leaders whose companies get state tax money and/or public employees like himself.
"If I was receiving any federal or state benefits to help raise my family, I'd be glad to take a drug test," he replied.
Bryant receives $122,160 a year in taxpayer money as his salary. He also has the people of the state of Mississippi to thank for his health care benefits.