Southern politicians have a long history of opposing efforts to provide government-sponsored health care for their constituents.
In 1947, President Harry Truman proposed legislation that would essentially provide universal health care paid for through fees and taxes. Remember, health care options for working people in those days were far more dire than they are now, as fewer people had employer-based health insurance.
Truman’s proposal was partially killed by Southern Democrats in the US House and Senate. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in his book “The Conscience of a Liberal” that Southern politicians opposed the Democratic president’s plan because they feared it would lead to a government mandate to integrate hospitals.
Krugman wrote, “Keeping black people out of white hospitals was more important to Southern politicians than providing poor whites with the means to obtain medical treatment.”
Southern politicians, as it turns out, still aren’t crazy about government-sponsored health insurance.
A quick look at a map of states that have and have not expanded Medicaid is surprising. Of the 11 states that did not expand Medicaid, eight (if Texas is included) are Southern states.
The map of non-expansion states, matter of fact, closely resembles the footprint of the Collegiate Southeastern Conference sports leagues, with the exception of Louisiana, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Missouri. Those four states have expanded Medicaid. Granted, most would say that Missouri is not a Southern state, but it is in the SEC.
At any rate, it is the SEC states, led by Southern politicians who are now Republican Southern politicians, that are again resisting efforts to expand government-sponsored health care to help their poorer constituents.
Of course, hospitals are no different now. According to Krugman, they were integrated in the 1960s, when another government-sponsored program was implemented: Medicare, which provides health care to the elderly.
While it has been established by various studies that the largest percentage of people who would benefit from Medicaid expansion are people of color, it is important to point out that there are also many white citizens who would benefit.
Medicaid expansion, as allowed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, provides health insurance primarily for the working poor — for someone earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level or $18,754 a year. For people with In Mississippi, the traditional Medicaid program typically covers poor pregnant women, poor children, certain groups of poor retirees, and the disabled, but not the working poor.
The federal government pays the bulk of health care costs for those on the Medicaid expansion. When Southern politicians express their opposition to Medicaid expansion, they often declare “against Obamacare” as if that’s reason enough to oppose it.
“I oppose Obamacare expansion in Mississippi. I oppose Obamacare expansion in Mississippi. I oppose Obamacare expansion in Mississippi. I don’t know how many ways I can explain this to you all ‘
When the country’s only African-American president – Barack Obama – passed the Affordable Care Act through Congress in 2010, almost all Republicans were opposed to “Obamacare”. But now strong Republican states like Montana, North Dakota, Utah and Idaho have embraced Medicaid expansion. In Republican-controlled South Dakota, voters just approved a ballot initiative to adopt a Medicaid expansion. For the most part, it’s Southern politicians eschewing Medicaid expansion.
John Bell Williams was also against health care expansion when he represented Mississippi in the US House. As a member of Congress, he voted against Democratic President Lyndon Johnson’s plan to create a Medicaid program for a small population of the underprivileged.
But as governor, Williams called a special session later in 1969 and urged the Legislature to take up the Medicaid program.
In a speech to the legislature, Williams said, “Let us not delude ourselves with the false notion that we can – or will – escape the burden of caring for these unfortunate people. Through government our society has always shouldered this responsibility.” on its shoulders, and I’m sure it always will be.
Williams said the state could not afford to close a federal health care program that would require the state to provide only 20% matching funding. He talked about its economic impact on the state.
“The simple fact is that someone pays for health services, and we have to decide who will do it and how,” he explained.
The special session ran from 22 July to 11 October. Ultimately, the Mississippi Legislature opted out of joining the program, proving that Southern politicians were not always opposed to health care reform for their poorer constituents.
Whether this will happen with Medicaid expansion remains to be seen.
What questions do you have about Medicaid in Mississippi?
please take a few minutes to share your question,