JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Democrats in the Mississippi Legislature said Wednesday they’ve come up with a way to provide health coverage to about 300,000 people without expanding Medicaid.
The state could use federal money to help low-income people buy private health insurance, the Democratic lawmakers said. Arkansas lawmakers approved a similar plan earlier this year and are awaiting federal approval for it.
Mississippi Democrats said their plan has elements to please people from both parties: It would fulfill their wish to reduce the number of uninsured people, while giving Republicans a market-based approach to the coverage.
“We’re talking about a compromise here,” state Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said during a Capitol news conference attended by two dozen House and Senate Democrats.
A spokesman for Republican Gov. Phil Bryant said the Democrats’ new proposal is nothing but a repackaging of Medicaid expansion, which the governor has long opposed.
“As Gov. Bryant has said before, he remains opposed to expanding Obamacare in Mississippi or adopting expansion-based plans that will leave Mississippi taxpayers shouldering the burden of a massive entitlement program,” spokesman Mick Bullock said in a news release.
Under the Democrats’ plan, people with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level would use federal subsidies to buy insurance through a state-operated exchange, or online marketplace. Democrats propose that the state insurance commissioner, Republican Mike Chaney, would operate the exchange.
The federal health care overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010 requires each state to have some sort of health exchange where people could start shopping for coverage by this October. The exchanges would be state-run, federally run or a combination.
Federal officials earlier this year said they wouldn’t approve Chaney’s proposal for a Mississippi-run exchange because the governor opposes it.
Chaney said he hadn’t had a chance to review details of the Democrats’ plan.