Dr. Scott Alsobrooks
The Picayune Item
It appears that our state and local area are slowly crawling out from under the economic doldrums (i.e., great recession) that placed a huge speed bump in the lives of many. Year end statewide data indicated that fiscal year 2013 revenue collections exceeded expected collections by more than $295 million. Obviously there will be many groups asking members of the legislature, as well as the executive branch for some of this money. Where these funds go remains to be seen.
It does not appear that a large amount of this new money will be allocated towards Medicaid. Legislators reauthorized and funded Medicaid at approximately $840 million for fiscal year 2014. That is an increase of about $19 million from this past fiscal year; basically level funding. Some parties pushed to increase the Medicaid allotment to include another 300,000 uninsured citizens, which would have cost the state about $450 million over the next seven years. The projected return to the state in the form of federal Medicaid dollars would have been $8.6 billion.
Rather or not the economic payback in sales tax collections, income tax collections and other taxes wrought from the projected $8.6 billion would compensate for the state required portion of the $450 million is unclear. Some say that authorizing the increase in Medicaid is a "no brainer" and that the state is losing money by not expanding. Others say that the $450 million burden will channel monies from education and do more harm than good.
One thing is for sure, this debate is not over. It will probably be the most hotly debated topic for the upcoming legislative session. Mississippians are certainly compassionate people who will find a way to care for their poor and underprivileged. But Mississippi legislators are wise in being patient with these new federal healthcare reforms. Playing the patience game and learning from other states around the nation could prove to be a wise strategy. Avoiding costly mistakes that could do inherent harm to our fragile education system is paramount for our state.