A new Mississippi Today/Siena College poll showed wide support for Mississippi expanding Medicaid to cover 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 state cry for help.
Several poll respondents agreed to talk with Mississippi Today about their support or opposition to expanding the federal-state health 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.
“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 life, 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 Republicans. None of them make any sense, but they make the most sense to me.”
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
“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 couple 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.”
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
“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 jobs 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 run 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.”