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Speaker White calls for statewide...

Speaker White calls for statewide referendum on Medicaid expansion

By: Frank Corder - May 1, 2024

Mississippi House Speaker Rep. Jason White, R-West, speaks about the bipartisan support in the passing of a state incentives package for a Mississippi factory that will manufacture batteries for electric vehicles — a project that promises 2,000 jobs, during a special session of the Mississippi Legislature, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, at the Mississippi Capitol in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

  • After House Democrats balked at the compromise with the Senate, Republican Speaker Jason White offered the new proposal with one day left to negotiate.

On Wednesday, both chambers recommitted the Medicaid expansion legislation signed by House and Senate conferees, giving the two sides one more day to hammer out differences.

The move came after House Democrats balked at the negotiated conference report which firmly hinged on a work requirement of at least 100 hour per month being approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). If the work requirement was not approved by CMS, the legislation would require that the state reapply annually.

State Rep. Robert Johnson, the House Democratic Leader, told reporters Wednesday that his caucus wants the “faulty” reapplication process taken out of the bill.

”Don’t lock ourselves into reapplying in a way that we know will get turned down every year,” Johnson said.

Democrats waffling on the negotiated legislation put the bill in a precarious spot. Should a larger number of Republican members also jump ship, the veto proof majority needed to bypass the Governor’s objections would put House leaders behind the eight ball after expending significant political capital on a highly controversial issue, especially within conservative circles.

Late Wednesday evening, Speaker Jason White (R) attempted to reignite the conversation with the clock ticking away, issuing a statement on the negotiations saying the House is now proposing to put the issue on a statewide ballot referendum.

“The referendum process will be two-fold; Mississippians will have the opportunity to vote if they are for Medicaid expansion or not, and if so, should the parameters of the program include a work requirement,” White shared on social media.

Speaker White said the House conferees would deliver a signed report to the Senate Thursday morning.

Senate leaders have not publicly responded to White’s proposal as of press time.

Speaker White’s statement in its entirety reads:

“Today, the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Senate recommitted HB 1725, the Medicaid expansion legislation, for further conference and in the morning the House will deliver to the Senate a signed conference report to proceed with a statewide ballot referendum on the issue. Moving through the final stages of the legislative process, it became apparent that opinions still differed on the best way to address our healthcare crisis. Throughout the negotiations on this issue, legislators faced challenging conversations and debates, and although we did not always agree on the best pathway, we are united in wanting to provide Mississippi’s low-income population access to quality healthcare.

“The referendum process will be two-fold; Mississippians will have the opportunity to vote if they are for Medicaid expansion or not, and if so, should the parameters of the program include a work requirement.

“This year marks my thirteenth Session and for the first time healthcare coverage for low-income Mississippians has been in a vehicle with real driving power. I applaud Medicaid Chairman Missy McGee for her tireless dedication and work on this issue, as well as House conferees Joey Hood and Sam Creekmore. I also want to express my appreciation to the business community, religious leaders, community officials, and voters for amplifying their support of a healthier Mississippi.

“This Session proved that a consensus has formed and we all share the same goal: to provide healthcare access to low-income Mississippians. Creating a referendum process for this issue is a clear direction forward. We hope that our colleagues in the Senate will take this opportunity to finally hear from the electorate once and for all. With a Presidential election on the horizon, a robust campaign season with high turnout can be expected. For years, the response to Medicaid expansion was not just no, but entirely dismissed; with this ballot referendum, Mississippians will now have a seat at the table on how we improve healthcare outcomes in our state.”


UPDATE as of 8:41pm on Wednesday:

Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann (R) issued the following statement Wednesday evening after the news of Speaker White’s proposal broke:

“We had some discussions with Senators today about the possibility of a nonbinding referendum on the ballot and the idea was not well received.

“We are disappointed in the outcome this year, but value the discussions which occurred this Session—the first time this Legislature has seriously considered healthcare reform in our state. I remain committed to finding ways to increase access for working Mississippians who otherwise do not have the resources for a simple check-up or an extended hospital stay. A strong work requirement, with necessary exceptions, is a bottom line for many Senators. We look forward to continuing the conversation on access to healthcare in the future.”

About the Author(s)
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Frank Corder

Frank Corder is a native of Pascagoula. For nearly two decades, he has reported and offered analysis on government, public policy, business and matters of faith. Frank’s interviews, articles, and columns have been shared throughout Mississippi as well as in national publications. He is a frequent guest on radio and television, providing insight and commentary on the inner workings of the Magnolia State. Frank has served his community in both elected and appointed public office, hosted his own local radio and television programs, and managed private businesses all while being an engaged husband and father. Email Frank: