Home Part of States Newsroom
Republican legislative leaders brush off governor’s objections to Medicaid expansion


Republican legislative leaders brush off governor’s objections to Medicaid expansion

Feb 21, 2024 | 11:51 am ET
By Taylor Vance
Republican legislative leaders brush off governor’s objections to Medicaid expansion
Photo courtesy of Mississippi Today

Legislative leaders on Tuesday pushed back on Republican Gov. Tate Reeves’ social media post that criticized state lawmakers for pressing ahead with legislation that would expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor — a policy the governor has long opposed. 

“Some in the MS State Capitol still want Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion,” Reeves wrote. “Most — but not all — are Democrats.”

As part of his post, Reeves attached a picture of a 2023 social media post from former Republican President Donald Trump, saying “Obamacare Sucks!!!” 

Republican leaders in the House and Senate on Tuesday were undeterred by Reeves’ remarks and said they are still considering legislation to expand Medicaid coverage to improve some of the state’s dire health outcomes and address the high percentage of Mississippians who remain uninsured.

House Speaker Jason White, R-West, told Mississippi Today that the governor is entitled to his opinion on Medicaid policy, but he believes the GOP-controlled House will pass a bill this session that expands health insurance to more citizens.

“My position’s been pretty clear on the fact that we were going to explore and look at Medicaid as it affects hard-working, low-income Mississippians,” White said. “My ideas and thoughts about that haven’t changed. He’s the duly elected governor and he’s certainly entitled to his opinions on that matter. I don’t hold any of those against him. We just maybe here in the House have a different view of it.” 

Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, the leader of the Senate, similarly said that state leaders must do something at the Capitol to try and improve the state’s dismal labor participation rate, one of the lowest in the nation.

“Even a casual review of the health stats in Mississippi require us to consider all options to reach this goal,” Hosemann said on Tuesday. 

READ MORE: Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann announces Senate Medicaid expansion bill

Conservative lawmakers in both chambers have authored legislation to expand Medicaid coverage, though they aren’t yet available on the Legislature’s website and are several steps away from becoming law. 

White personally introduced a measure to expand Medicaid coverage to additional people, a strong signal that the proposal is a major priority for the House speaker. 

House Medicaid Chair Missy McGee, R-Hattiesburg, also conducted a committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon where national experts said Medicaid expansion would be a boon for the state’s economy and create more jobs. 

McGee, after the meeting, did not substantively comment on Reeves’ remarks but made it clear that she plans to continue pushing legislation through the Capitol that will insure poor Mississippians.

“I believe that we have strong support in the House for finding health insurance solutions for our low-income workers and we can do it in a very positive, economically beneficial way,” McGee said. 

READ MORE: House panel holds hearing on previously taboo topic: benefits of Mississippi Medicaid expansion

In the Senate, Medicaid Chairman Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven, is expected to file legislation that expands Medicaid eligibility to additional people. 

“I think it’s a misclassification to call it Obamacare Medicaid expansion,” Blackwell said in response to Reeves’ post. “I think it would be judicious to reserve comment after the bill’s language has been presented. Our goal is to provide health care for those who are working.” 

The tension between the Republican leaders has crescendoed this week, but Reeves will appear alongside White and Hosemann on Monday night when the governor will deliver his annual State of the State address to outline his legislative priorities. 

The speech is a chance for legislative leaders to formally hear an outline of the governor’s policy proposals — an occasion that has recently become an amicable affair because all of the state’s leaders belong to the same political party.

But the Reeves tweet on Tuesday about Medicaid policy was the opening salvo of the 2024 session, and the tension is expected to intensify throughout the year. The political stakes are high for both Reeves and the Capitol’s two leaders.

If Reeves successfully thwarts the Legislature’s attempt to pass a Medicaid expansion proposal, it would significantly undermine the historically powerful role of the lieutenant governor and House speaker in Mississippi politics.

And if White and Hosemann can form a large coalition of lawmakers to override a governor’s objections, it would send a strong signal that Reeves, in his final term of office, will not hold an iron grip on the state’s legislators.

READ MORE: House Democrats unveil Mississippi’s first major Medicaid expansion plan