State Rep. Robert Johnson, Democratic Leader in the House, attempted to amend an appropriations bill to expand Medicaid. It failed.
On Wednesday, the Mississippi House took up a variety of appropriations bills, including H.B. 1624 which is the appropriation for the Division of Medicaid.
Though the bill was ultimately passed by a vote of 107-5, two amendments were introduced on the floor prior to the final passage vote. Both failed.
State Rep. Robert Johnson (D) offered the first amendment to the bill, which said the law could not take effect until “the State of Mississippi expands Medicaid and commits the funds necessary to restore suspended or discontinued services at the public hospitals in Hinds County and commits the necessary funds to restore the neonatal intensive care unit in the Delta and prevent the closing of any hospital that is in eminent danger of closing or has closed within the year.”
Johnson, the House Minority Leader, said the House Medicaid Committee hasn’t held a meeting yet so he was unable to discuss with Rep. Joey Hood (R), the chairman of the committee, about the amendment.
“So, I found my opportunity here to address a Medicaid issue that I think is imminent,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the other night, his mother was rushed to the hospital. He explained that the ambulance was there in eleven minutes and the hospital was fifteen minutes away. It bothers him to think that there is an 81-year-old mother that may be fifty minutes from a hospital, and they won’t get there.
“I think it’s a very important thing for us to consider, I think we need to take it extremely seriously,” Johnson said. “This is a hill I’m going to die on in this session. We’re going to stay on this one every opportunity we get because I think this is a matter of life and death. I think it’s important to everybody here in this state, and I think it’s a service and a duty that we owe the people that we represent.”
In response, State Rep. Hood asked members of the House to not pass the amendment. He said the bill has a reverse repealer in it, allowing lawmakers to continue to work on the legislation as they go through the process.
The amendment failed by a vote of 73-42.
The second amendment was authored by State Rep. Bryant Clark (D). The amendment would have amended “line 160 by deleting “20,589” and insert “22,559.”
“We’re simply making a policy statement of this body,” Clark said. “It’s true it’s going to have to go through the process, they’re still working on it in the process, but it’s good for this body to sometime to make a policy statement and say ‘this is the position of the Mississippi House of Representatives. This is how I feel as a state legislator.'”
The second amendment failed by a vote of 41-72.
Before final passage of the legislation, State Rep. John Hines (D) spoke on the bill.
Rep. Hines said a report showed 38% of the hospitals in Mississippi are at risk of closing.
“We got to do something, we got to do something now,” Hines said. “This is about the folks who vote for us, y’all. This is about the people on the verge of dying and not knowing what tomorrow will bring.”
Hines noted that there are women who are struggling and there are no neonatal centers around them. He added that there are people who are struggling with mental health issues, and they can’t get into a community mental health center because “the funding isn’t there.”
“Eventually we’re going to have to stop being last in every category,” Hines said. “My plea to you is for [those] who do not have the coverage and we have the capability of providing the coverage. We have the capabilities to [fix] some of these problems, we have to get serious about this particular agency and the health care we’re going to provide in this state.”
No legislation remains alive in the Mississippi House to expand Medicaid during the 2023 session.
You can view yesterday’s full floor discussion below.