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Why these Republican voters support, oppose Medicaid expansion

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Why these Republican voters support, oppose Medicaid expansion

A new Mississippi Today/Siena College poll showed wide support for Mississippi expanding Medicaid to the working poor, including 70% support from Republican respondents.

The numbers appear to show a continued shift of voter sentiment in what has long been a partisan battle. Mississippi's elected Republican governors and other leaders for the last decade have blocked Medicaid expansion via the Affordable Care Act and the billions in federal dollars that would have come with it. This resistance continues even as struggling hospitals and more citizens in the poorest, unhealthiest cry for .

READ MORE: Poll: 80% of Mississippians favor Medicaid expansion

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READ MORE: Frequently asked questions: What is Medicaid expansion, really?

Several poll respondents agreed to talk with Mississippi Today about their support or opposition to expanding the federal-state care program to cover people making up to 138% of the poverty level, or the working poor.

Republican voters who support Medicaid expansion

Katherine Bagwell, 79, West Point, small business owner

“Why not expand it, if they're working and still not making it? Medical bills are ridiculous. It needs to be for working people, unless they are not working because they can't. Right this minute, I know an 18-year-old who dropped out of school and is not looking for a job, living with his momma. For him, I don't support anything but him getting off the couch … I consider myself a conservative Republican.

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“And I would like to say these need to be American citizens. I'm not in favor of giving everything to illegals coming across … I have a daughter whose husband is having major problems. He's trying to get on social security disability. She's working, trying her best … He's worked all his , but a major accident at work started all this. She does not have insurance through work … I think it's wonderful that there is Medicaid. My daughter's children had Medicaid when they were younger, or I don't know what they would have done. Right now I'm paying insurance for them, because she can't afford it.”

Joy Cevera, 60, Oxford, disability-retired cook

“Yes, I support (Medicaid expansion). I used to be one of the working poor. I watched my son suffer because I couldn't afford medical care for him. And if you're working and you have to go through that, there's a problem. He's now 35, and I'm still watching him suffer because he's one of the working poor. There's got to be something done. If other states can do it, why can't we? I know we are one of the saddest states, and I know it might mess up (the budget) within the state, but something's got to be done.

“I pretty much support the . None of them make any sense, but they make the most sense to me.”

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Brad Dickey, 58, Southaven, engineer

“My wife is a nurse … People need to have access to health care. I think we do have a responsibility as a society to help folks, and sometimes the folks you're helping aren't your favorite folks, but too bad. The right to live is a basic right and I think we have the responsibility to help people who are less fortunate than we are. They should expand it. We are an unhealthy state.

“Yes, I vote Republican probably 90% of the time. I don't really fit what the party has become lately — I'd say I'm a Reagan Republican maybe leaning toward a Ford Republican. … I tell my friends who say they don't want to give money to people who don't work or can't afford insurance, ‘Yes, but they have children.' … They have got to have something, otherwise what they do is go to the emergency room. Going to the emergency room, where they are shorthanded, for a cold. It would be much more affordable care if done another way. It stresses the hospitals, and yes, we end up paying for it anyway … I think Tate Reeves honestly has done about the best job anybody could do through this period … I guess I disagree with my party on this.”

Robbie Raymond, 47, Florence, heavy equipment operator

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“Yes. I support it, but in a very specific way. I do believe we need to do more to help the working poor, or the retired. I think that Medicare and Medicaid for our elderly and retired is a horribly broken system … But for the people who are able to work that don't and think they need assistance, what they need is a job. That's our big downfall in this whole country, that we don't do enough to help the people that need help, and do too much for the people who don't need it … I've been fortunate and always had a good job, made good money and had insurance. But there's lots of people I know that struggle.

“I'm from Florence, and I personally know (Gov. Tate Reeves). I do disagree with Tate Reeves (on Medicaid expansion), but I still talk with him a of times a year, and I know that he also shares my viewpoint that we should do more to help our retired and our working poor.”

Cindy Handley, 63, Hattiesburg, teacher

“I think there are people that fall in the cracks and don't get the support they need because they make $2 too much … The income limits are pretty low in Mississippi compared to other states, like Colorado. I say that because I have a friend on retirement disability who was able to get assistance in Colorado, but not able to in Mississippi … Yes, I do support (Gov. Tate Reeves). But this is just something I disagree with him on. I'm not really sure why he's opposed. I've not heard him speak on it. I just think there are a lot of people in need.”

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Republicans (and an independent) who oppose Medicaid expansion

Joseph Allen, 42, Brandon, small business owner

“I have an LLC. I work for myself. I pay for my own insurance myself, and it's a lot of money. I think that people that pay into the system more should be held up more. To me it's like a broken record in America. The more you put in, the more you're penalized. The yarder you work, the more money they take.

“Not to go off on a diatribe, but when LBJ implemented the welfare system and entitlement, it was not a bad idea to start off with. But then you end up with incentives for people to be failures in life.”

Marcia Johnson, 69, Poplarville, owner of construction company

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“Mostly, I oppose it because of all these young girls out here having all these kids, and I'm having to pay for it. Once is a mistake, but continuously and then Medicaid having to pay for it is not a mistake. Medicaid is supposed to just be for those that something happens to them and they haven't got any income or insurance. But a lot of Medicaid goes on in the state of Mississippi that shouldn't, with taxpayers paying for it. There are so many out there. There's help-wanted signs everywhere. No more expansion. Mississippi should not expand Medicaid any more. If I've worked all these years and haven't been on Medicaid, I don't believe others should be, either.”

Michelle Dukes, 52, Edwards, homemaker and caregiver, former mental health field worker

“I worked in the mental health field for 15 years, and I often saw people that needed (Medicaid) who couldn't get it, and people who didn't need it who got it. Yes. I oppose it, because I saw the abuse of it … The system needs to be fixed before they expand it. I know we need a safety net, but it just seems like it is not properly.

“I would say I'm an independent. I guess I'm right of center, but I don't like the Republicans and I don't like the Democrats.”

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READ MORE: Mississippi leaving more than $1 billion per year on table by rejecting Medicaid expansion

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

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Mississippi Today

Trump endorses Roger Wicker for Senate reelection 

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Former Republican President Donald Trump endorsed U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker's bid for reelection on Thursday, likely giving the incumbent senator a major boost weeks before Mississippi's party primaries. 

“Senator Roger Wicker is a fantastic Senator for the Great of Mississippi,” Trump wrote on social . “As the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Roger is working hard to Strengthen our Military, Defend our Country, and our .”

Wicker, a 72-year-old , has represented the Magnolia State in the U.S. Senate since 2007. Before the Senate, he served several terms in the U.S. House and in the Mississippi .

He is currently the top Republican serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over matters involving the U.S. military. If the GOP gains a majority in the Senate this year, Wicker could be the first Mississippian to lead that committee since former U.S. Sen. John Stennis.

“We are proud to have 's support for our campaign and re-election efforts,” Wicker campaign manager Jake Monssen said in a statement. “ across Mississippi are to take back the Senate and the White House in 2024 and put an end to the radical Biden-Harris agenda.”

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Wicker will compete against state Rep. Dan Eubanks of DeSoto County and retired U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Ghannon Burton in the Republican primary on March 12. Civil rights attorney Ty Pinkins is the only candidate who qualified in the Democratic primary. 

The winner of the Republican primary will compete against Pinkins on November 5.

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

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Thanks to the Super Six, there’s now a shiny, gold ball in Blue Mountain

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Blue Mountain coach Regina Chills (left) and Keyauna Foote hoist the Class 1A Championship trophy. Credit: Keith Warren/MHSAA

For most of this made-for-Hollywood season, the remarkable Blue Mountain girls basketball team has been known as the Super Six. That's because for most of the season there were only six players, three with the last name of Foote.

Rick Cleveland

That explains the Six. The Super? The Blue Mountain Cougars brought a 28-1 record into Thursday night's Class 1A State Championship at Mississippi Coliseum, known as the Big House throughout Mississippi high school basketball. Rarely, if ever, has there been a smaller team in the Big House.

The opponent this night was 26-6 Lumberton, and nothing came easy for Blue Mountain. Nothing ever has for the Cougars, who represent the fourth smallest public school in Mississippi. The three smaller: The Mississippi School for the Deaf, the Mississippi School for the Blind and Piney Woods.

But basketball is big in small schools across northeast Mississippi's Hill Country, and that's especially true in Blue Mountain where there aren't enough to field a football team. The school also recently has dropped and softball due to the lack of players.

Keyauna Foote (right) with her proud daddy, Dominique Foote.

“We're a little school in a little bitty town,” said Dominique Foote, a former Blue Mountain Cougar and proud father of Keyauna Foote, the team's star player and Miss Basketball for Class 1A.

About 800 folks in Blue Mountain. There are 66 – boys and girls, combined – in grades 7 through 12. The Cougars play their home games on a gym floor that is roughly about three-quarters the size of a regulation basketball court. Put it this way: A player with big feet can't shoot a three-pointer from the corner because the three-point line extends just six inches short of out of bounds.

And even that's not all that's small about the Tippah County town about 34 miles northwest of Tupelo about six miles southwest of Ripley, the county seat.

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“Nope, we don't have any traffic lights in Blue Mountain,” said Regina Chills, the team's coach.

But the town without a traffic light now has one gleaming, gold state championship trophy. Despite many scary moments – and a dogged effort from Lumberton – Blue Mountain prevailed 38-36 in a defensive struggle that turned into an offensive barn-burner in the fourth quarter.

As usual, only the original Super Six played for Blue Mountain, while two more youngsters, promoted from the junior high team late in the season, watched and cheered from the bench. The three Footes, Keyauna and her first cousins A'rare and Beiga, made play after play after play, especially in the fourth quarter.

Keyauna scored 14 points, grabbed seven rounds, blocked two shots and passed out two assists. A'rare scored 11 points and made two steals. Beiga scored seven points and stole the ball three times. So, the three Footes provided 32 of the team's 39 points.

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The bench is a lonely place for the Blue Mountain girls basketball team. Credit: Keith Warren/MHSAA

There were some tense and anxious moments, like when Beiga Foote went down hard after a collision midway through the first quarter and had to the . The Super Six was suddenly down to five. Thankfully, Beiga returned after a short rest to recuperate. Another starter and key player, Ahkeeah Lipsey, drew her fourth foul in the last minute of the third quarter and sat for much of the fourth. But the Cougars kept hustling, kept answering every Lumberton – and there were plenty of those.

“We've done that all season,” Coach Chills said afterward. “Plus this was a championship game. No matter what happens, you have to stay in the game and keep playing.”

Mission accomplished. Baskets were cherished like rare gems through the first three quarters. Blue Mountain led 21-19 into the fourth quarter when both teams started scoring almost at will. Keyauna Foote scored three straight baskets to give the Cougars a five-point midway through, but Lumberton fired back and kept firing back until Keyauna scored what proved to be the winning basket on an in-bounds play with 20 seconds left.

As is always the case in the Big House this time of the year, a wild celebration ensued. If 866 folks live in Blue Mountain, nearly all were present and dancing in the stands.

Hard to say what comes next for Blue Mountain basketball. Four of the Super Six are seniors and won't be around next year. This year's junior high team was winless.

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“What are you going to do?” someone asked Coach Childs.

She held up her hands as if to dismiss the question. “Right now,” she said, “I'm going to go celebrate.”

No doubt, all of Blue Mountain, bursting with pride, will celebrate with her.

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

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Jackson lawmakers ‘shocked’ after Henifin backs bill depleting local power

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Just over a year into his uniquely powerful role reviving Jackson's , third-party manager Ted Henifin is supporting an effort to leave the without any future control of its water and sewer assets.

Sen. David Parker, R-Olive Branch, authored Senate Bill 2628, a renewed attempt to place the capital city's water and sewer infrastructure under the control of a “Capitol Region Utility Authority.” The measure passed out of its Senate committee last week.

Parker in last year's filed a similar bill, which Henifin, along with Jackson's legislative delegation and city officials, criticized as a power grab by the . That bill failed in the House.

But in a Feb. 23 press release, Henifin seemingly flipped his narrative on the state's efforts by giving his support for SB 2628.

“After reviewing SB 2628, I believe this is a great foundation,” Henifin said in a Feb. 23 press release. “It appears that many of the comments I provided during the last session regarding the bill introduced in 2023 were taken to heart and this bill now includes many of the suggestions I made at that time.”

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Empowered by U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate, Henifin's primary role is to use about $800 million in federal to stabilize Jackson's water and, as of last fall, sewer systems. But the 2022 court order that hired Henifin also asked him to suggest a future governance structure for the water system after his time in charge ends.

While Henifin has yet to make an official recommendation to the court, he last year brought up an idea of creating a corporate nonprofit, similar to what's proposed in SB 2628, but also keeping ownership of the water assets with the city.

While the two versions of the Parker bill are largely similar, the 2024 version strips all power from Jackson city officials to have any say in how their water and sewer systems are run. In the 2023 measure, the newly created utility authority would be governed by a nine-person board. Five appointees would have came from the governor and lieutenant governor, outnumbering the four that would have came from the of Jackson.

While that version left the city with a minority of the board appointments, the 2024 measure goes even further: SB 2628 would give five appointees to the governor, and the remaining four to the lieutenant governor. That would leave who controls a city service in a majority Black, largely Democratic city in the hands of two white Republicans.

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Mississippi reached out to Henifin asking whether he had any concern with the lack of local power being proposed in the Parker bill. The third-party manager responded via e-mail that he has “no dog in the appointment fight.”

“I am agnostic as to who appoints the board,” Henifin said. “The important thing to me is the board seats remain as defined along with the various requirements of all board members — ratepayers connected to the system, no elected officials, etc.”

But state officials representing Jackson were far from pleased with his support of the bill.

Sen. John Horhn, D-Jackson, told Mississippi Today that no one from the Jackson delegation even knew about Parker's bill until it was introduced at last week's Senate committee meeting. Horhn also said he met with Henifin earlier this week.

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“We met with Mr. Henifin this week to express our dismay with the position that we've been put into by his comments,” Horhn said, explaining that Henifin's support of the bill gives its proponents extra ammunition to argue for it.

On top of the city no elected officials in charge of the proposed authority, the bill would also allow the authority to purchase the physical assets from Jackson at a “fair market value,” as determined by the federal court.

“It's disrespectful,” Rep. Chris Bell, D-Jackson, said of the bill. “I'm going to do everything I can to try to kill the bill on (the House's) side if it gets here.”

Bell explained that the bill would “dilute” the power of Jackson residents in governing their own utilities. The position from Henifin, who has emphasized building trust with residents as a key to his success, left Bell shocked, he added.

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“I was shocked, dismayed, and really left speechless,” the lawmaker said. “That's what I'm more disappointed about than anything, is before he made those statements he should have talked to the (Jackson) delegation first.”

Horhn added that the repeated attempts by the state to remove power from Jackson officials begs the question: Why have a city government in the first place?

“We saw it with the airport, we saw it with the 1% sales tax, we saw it with the Capitol Complex Improvement District, we saw it with the Capitol , and we're seeing it now with the water and wastewater,” Horhn said. “At some point, the city of Jackson won't have any governing it'll be doing at all.”

Under SB 2628, the city's water, wastewater and storm water systems would be governed by the nine-person board, which would consult with the federal court to pick a president that would handle administrative tasks, such as hiring personnel, dealing with the infrastructure. The president would work “at the will and pleasure of the board.”

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The governor's five board appointees would have to include:

  • one employee of a large nonhealthcare business with at least 200 employees working within the service area.
  • an owner of a restaurant in the service area.
  • an employee of a nonprofit within the service area.
  • a member of the clergy leading a place of worship within the service area.
  • and an at-large appointee who lives or works in the service area.

The lieutenant governor's four appointees must include:

  • a small business owner whose primary location is in the service area.
  • an employee of a large health care facility in the service area.
  • an employee of a post-secondary institution in the service area.
  • and an at-large appointee who lives or works in the service area.

Henifin said there were a few changes to Parker's proposal that earned his support this session: requiring the president to serve as the third-party manager's deputy until Wingate relieves Henifin of his duties; maintaining Henifin and the court's control of federal money received so far; adding specifications as to who can be on the board; and defining the authority's customers as those connected to the Jackson systems as of July 1, 2024.

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

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