Following the summer Supreme Court decision that allowed states to choose to opt out of the Medicaid expansion outlined under the health care reform law, Mississippi recently became the first state to choose to decline the expansion and the federal dollars associated with it.
While the healthcare law is almost certainly best known for its requirement for individual Americans to obtain health care coverage, it also came with a significant change to how the state and federal government approach Medicaid. Instead of individual states determining who qualified for Medicaid, the law required that each state allow anyone earning up to 133% of the federal poverty line to receive coverage under the program. The law also stated that states could use federal money to pay for the new enrollees.
However, the Supreme Court declared that provision of the law unconstitutional, and effectively allowed states to choose if they wanted to expand Medicaid or not without risking losing federal money. Though many states had indicated their intention not to expand the program, Mississippi has become the first to actually do so. Even though the state is one of the poorest in the nation, has a population where more than one out of seven people do not have insurance, and where obesity, diabetes, and heart disease rates are among the highest in the nation, Governor Phil Bryant stated that the state will not accept the expansion or the associated federal dollars.