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Are Republicans about to leave Gov. Tate Reeves behind on Medicaid expansion?

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Gov. Tate Reeves, running for a second term this year, is traveling the state vowing he'll continue to block Medicaid expansion, a policy that would provide health coverage to at least 200,000 working Mississippians and bring at least $1 in new annual revenue to the state.

A powerful fellow Mississippi Republican Party leader appears to have had enough of his defiance.

Presumptive new Speaker of the House Jason White told Mississippi Today last week that Medicaid expansion would be on the table in the 2024 legislative . White's remarks sparked an earth-rattling flash in a state that has resisted expansion for more than 10 years.

In just one interview, the likely new House speaker bucked his party's leader in a prolific way. But the candor of White's statement was telling in itself. He acknowledged that his own party was being rightfully criticized for not being willing to even discuss expansion. It was a brutally honest, almost self-deprecating statement, the likes of which are rarely seen in modern .

And it was a clear contrast in how Reeves has long discussed and handled the issue.

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“I think we as have probably earned a little bit of the bad rap we get on health care in Mississippi,” White said in a Thursday interview with Mississippi Today. “Part of that is that we haven't had a full-blown airing or discussion of Medicaid expansion. We've just said, ‘No.'

“Now, I'm not out here on the curb pushing Medicaid expansion, but we are going to have full discussions on that and on all facets of health care in Mississippi,” White said. “… Right or wrong, we have been wearing the yoke of, ‘Y'all haven't even considered this or dug down into the numbers.' And that's true.”

There's all sorts of political for any Mississippi leader to float expansion. Public polling this year suggests anywhere between 65% and 80% of Mississippians — and well over 50% of Republicans — support it. Voters broadly want Medicaid expansion, and they're letting candidates hear it.

White, for what it's worth, knows this sentiment better than anyone. The past few months, he's been coordinating political efforts to keep the House GOP supermajority intact in this November's elections. Many of his partymates are facing challenges from Democrats, who have for years advocated for Medicaid expansion and have recently coordinated a concise pro-expansion message. Several Republican candidates across the state are no doubt a hard time justifying their party's inaction to voters.

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Beyond just the politics, the facts are impossible to ignore. The federal expansion program would provide Mississippi, the poorest and unhealthiest state in America, billions in new revenue and create tens of thousands of new jobs. It would provide health care to at least 200,000 Mississippians who in what's called the “coverage gap” — people who have jobs but do not make enough money to afford health insurance plans on their own and are not offered coverage from their employers. And it would be a major financial shot in the arm for struggling hospitals.

READ MORE: Nearly half of rural hospitals at risk of closure in Mississippi, new data shows

But Tate Reeves doesn't want it. He plays politics, calling it “Obamacare” and likening it to “welfare.” When the governor gave his State of the State address earlier this year, he issued a direct appeal to lawmakers to resist it.

“Don't simply cave under the pressure of Democrats and their allies in the media who are pushing for the expansion of Obamacare, welfare, and socialized medicine,” Reeves said in that speech. “You have my word that if you stand up to the left's push for endless -run healthcare, I will stand with you.”

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White, who sat a few feet from the governor's podium that evening, apparently doesn't care if the governor is standing with him or not.

For the first time since the Affordable Care Act was passed, the top two of the Legislature may be on the same page about having a conversation, at least, about expanding Medicaid. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, a shoo-in to be reelected for another four-year term, has expressed openness to some version of Medicaid expansion in the past. 

While there has never been an earnest debate of expansion under the Capitol dome, most GOP lawmakers have clearly been awaiting leadership from a party leader. In the 2023 legislative session, Mississippi Today spent weeks surveying lawmakers about the issue. A voting majority in the House and just shy of a voting majority in the Senate said they either supported expansion or were still undecided. Only a small handful of lawmakers in either chamber said they outright opposed it.

White, apparently, is the leader they've been waiting on. And on this issue, he may just take his fellow Republicans along with him and his governor behind.

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READ MORE: Why so many top candidates are ignoring Mississippi's worsening hospital crisis

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Mississippi Today

Rory McIlroy reminds us: ‘If you wish to hide your character, do not play golf’

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mississippitoday.org – Rick Cleveland – 2024-06-18 18:56:26

Australian Bruce Crampton surely would be a prime contender for the dubious title of greatest golfer to never have won one of the sport's major championships. He won 45 professional tournaments around the world, 14 on the PGA Tour.

Crampton twice won the Vardon Trophy for the lowest scoring average on the tour. He finished second in four of the majors, once at the Masters, once in the U.S. Open and twice in the PGA Championship. If Jack Nicklaus did not exist, Crampton would have won those four majors.

Rick Cleveland

Crampton, a cerebral golfer, understood the sport as few have. And he summed it up, perhaps, better than anyone ever has.

“Golf,” said Crampton, “is a compromise between what your ego wants you to do, what experience tells you to do, and what your nerves let you do.”

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Rory McIlroy lost Sunday's U.S. Open on all three levels: ego, experience and nerves. It was painful to watch.

This is to take nothing away from DeChambeau's victory, his second U.S. Open championship. His par-4 on the 18th hole will be remembered as one of the greatest “up and downs” in golf history. Remarkable was all it was. When the tournament was on the line, McIlroy's nerves failed him and DeChambeau's were nerves of steel.

Hale Irwin, another golfer with steely nerve, won three U.S. during his Hall of Fame career. He was at his best when it mattered most. He, as Crampton, understood golf at its essence. “Golf is the loneliest sport,” Irwin once said. “You are completely alone with every conceivable to defeat yourself. Golf brings out your assets and liabilities as a person. The longer you play, the more certain you are that a man's performance is the outward manifestation of who, in his heart, he really thinks he is.”

You and I can only imagine how lonely McIlroy felt over the last three holes Sunday. We can only imagine all that was going through his mind. One of the most physically talented golfers in history of the sport, he had gone nearly a decade since winning a major. After winning four majors in four years, he has won none in nearly 10. It's not like he hasn't had his chances. Twenty-one times during the last decade, he has finished in the top 10 of a major. 

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All that had to be going through his mind. In the end, it was too much.

Bobby Jones, probably the most universally beloved of all golf champions, may have said it best. “Golf,” Jones said, “is a that is played on a five-inch course — the distance between your ears.”

That's where McIlroy lost the U.S. Open — between his ears. The two missed short putts were strictly a case of nerves. He had made every short putt he encountered over the first 69 holes of the tournament. He had been perfect from five feet and closer. Then he missed the two that mattered most.

But nerves weren't all that failed him. Ego factored in. Why else would he choose to hit driver on the 18th hole? His game plan all had been to play it safe and hit 3-wood off the tee. He had made three pars the first three rounds. Instead, he hooked a driver into the rough. His ball stopped just inches ahead of a big tuff of wire grass, which made it impossible for him to strike his second shot cleanly. And even that wasn't his last mistake. After his second shot, which was well done under the circumstances, he was left with a 90- uphill pitch to the hole.

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Had he been thinking clearly, he would never have hit that chip shot past the hole. Any golfer knows the difference in degree of difficulty between a short downhill putt and an uphill putt from the same distance. What's more, McIlroy a downhill, sidehill knee-knocker that broke sharply to the right. He missed badly.

A few minutes later, DeChambeau made an uphill putt from about the same distance to win the tournament.

McIlroy did not distinguish himself in a good way afterward. He left the premises without doing interviews and without shaking the hand of the man who beat him. It was not a good look and brought to mind the words of Percey Boomer, one of the great early teachers of golf, who said, “If you wish to hide your character, do not play golf.”

It also brought to mind the words of the great champion Raymond Floyd who told us, “They call it golf because all the other four-letter words were taken.”

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This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Mississippi Today

On this day in 1865

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mississippitoday.org – Jerry Mitchell – 2024-06-19 07:00:00

JUNE 19, 1865

Credit: Smithsonian National of African American History and Culture

Although the Emancipation Proclamation had been issued two years earlier, it wasn't until this date — two months after the ended — that all those enslaved in learned they were

Union Gen. Granger delivered the to those enslaved in Galveston that the Civil War had ended: 

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.” 

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His announcement put the Emancipation Proclamation into effect. The news set off celebrations and continued to be remembered in the years that followed. The day became known as “Juneteenth,” which became a legal in Texas in 1980. In 2021, Juneteenth, also known as “ Day,” became a national holiday.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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Mississippi Today

Commissioner won’t create state insurance exchange unless Gov. Reeves approves

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mississippitoday.org – Bobby Harrison – 2024-06-19 04:16:00

Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney says he does not intend to create a state exchange to offer insurance to unless Gov. Tate Reeves signs off on it.

“We probably could operate the exchange, but I don't think it is wise to do it without having the governor on board or at least having some of his approval to operate the exchange,” Chaney said during a recent Mississippi ” podcast. “ … It is the governor's call whether we will have a state-based exchange. We have done all the other hoops we have to jump through.”

States that operate their own exchanges can typically attract more companies to write health insurance policies, offer people policies at lower costs and it would likely save the state millions of dollars in payments to the federal .

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Chaney said he has not talked to Reeves yet about whether he would submit a letter to the federal authorities saying the state wanted to operate its own exchange instead of being part of the federal Affordable Care Act Marketplace Exchange.

Reeves's office did not respond to questions from Mississippi Today about whether he would submit the letter.

PODCAST: Insurance Commissioner Chaney says creating state health insurance exchange is a win-win

The Legislature passed a bill during the 2024 giving Chaney's office the authority to set up the state exchange. The bill was authored by House Ways and Means Chair Trey Lamar, R-Senatobia. The governor let the bill become without his signature and without any comment.

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But in the past Reeves has been extremely critical of the Affordable Care Act. The exchange was established as part of the ACA. Through the exchange, people can purchase health insurance and people who earn less than 400% of the federal poverty level can receive federal subsidies to with the cost of the policies.

The federal subsidies are available through both the federal exchange and a federally approved state exchange that adheres to the federal regulations.

Chaney said it's likely he could entice more companies to offer health insurance on a state exchange and offer policies at less cost than on the federal exchange.

In addition, the companies offering health insurance in Mississippi through the federal exchange currently pay the federal government a fee to operate the federal exchange. If Mississippi was operating its own exchange, it's estimated Mississippi could save as much as $37 million a year that currently goes to the federal government to pay the cost of operating the federal exchange here.

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Lamar said he had not spoken to Reeves about the issue, but assumed the governor would the state exchange since he did not veto the legislation. He said the goal of the legislation is to recruit more companies to offer policies on the state exchange and hopefully provide more savings to the people purchasing the policies and to the state.

Plus, he said he believed it is better for the state instead of the federal government to be operating the exchange.

When the ACA was passed in 2010, then-Gov. Haley Barbour and Chaney both supported having a state exchange. But then-Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who later became governor and like Reeves was a vocal ACA opponent, opposed Mississippi operating a state exchange and blocked that effort.

While Chaney said he is ready to oversee a state exchange as insurance commissioner, he said Mississippi's participation in the federal exchange has been a . Currently about 250,000 Mississippian have health insurance through the exchange. Five companies offer health insurance policies in Mississippi on the federal exchange.

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Chaney said the Republican Governors Association is now advocating states create their own exchanges. Georgia, with the backing of Gov. Brian Kemp, recently created its own exchange.

Currently 21 states plus the District of Columbia have state-based exchanges, though three still operate from the federal platform.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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