Gov. Tate Reeves speaks during the 2023 Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday, July 27, 2023. Credit: Eric Shelton/Mississippi Today

Gov. Tate Reeves, who has continued to staunchly oppose expanding Medicaid in Mississippi, appears to have attended a meeting in May about “Medicaid policies,” according to his official calendar.

But no one with the governor’s office or the Division of Medicaid will discuss the purpose of the meeting, which Mississippi Today discovered through a records request of the governor’s calendar. 

When Mississippi Today submitted a records request for communications, notes and reports about and from the meeting, both the governor’s office and the agency claimed no such records existed.

The purpose of the meeting could be important for a number of reasons. Reeves, who is running for reelection this year, has faced criticism from his Democratic opponent Brandon Presley and health care leaders for his refusal to expand Medicaid. The move would provide both health coverage for hundreds of thousands of poor, working Mississippians and an economic boon to rural hospitals, more than half of which are at risk of closure because of financial concerns.

And in recent weeks, the state’s Medicaid division, which is statutorily overseen by the governor’s office, has been removing tens of thousands of adults and children from the Medicaid rolls.

The meeting would have come just a month after the Mississippi Division of Medicaid began its unwinding process.

It would have also been about a month after Reeves called Medicaid expansion “expanding welfare” at an event in Flowood.

The meeting, which was hosted in the Governor’s Mansion conference room at 2 p.m. on May 8, did not include a description and did not list attendees — just the title “Meet on Medicaid Policies” and the meeting’s location.

When asked if anyone from the division attended the meeting and what was discussed, a spokesperson from Medicaid only said that he “wasn’t aware” of any Division employees in attendance.

Shelby Wilcher, the governor’s spokesperson, did not respond to multiple emails. 

Reeves has consistently reiterated his opposition to expanding Medicaid to the working poor on the campaign trail. Conversely, his opponent Presley has repeatedly vowed to expand Medicaid if elected. 

Polls show that the majority of Mississippians support the policy change. A Mississippi Today survey of lawmakers during the 2023 legislative session showed that a majority either supported expansion or said they remained undecided, while just a handful said they outright opposed it. And as the health care crisis continues, health care leaders and experts, too, say that while expansion wouldn’t be a “silver bullet,” it would help stanch the financial bleed of the state’s struggling hospitals. 

Iris Stacker, the CEO of Delta Health Systems in Greenville, questioned at a July campaign event for Presley “why Tate Reeves doesn’t understand why he needs a healthy workforce.”

As unwinding continues, it’s unclear what was discussed or how the meeting might have impacted the process. 

In July, the Division announced its first disenrollments — about 29,000 people were dropped during the first wave. Another 22,000 followed in August, many of them children.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Devna Bose, a Neshoba County native, covers community health. She is a 2019 graduate of the University of Mississippi, where she studied print journalism and was a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Before joining Mississippi Today, Devna reported on education at Chalkbeat Newark and at the Post and Courier’s Education Lab, and on race and social justice at the Charlotte Observer. Her work has appeared in the Hechinger Report, the Star-Ledger and the Associated Press, and she has appeared on WNYC to discuss her reporting. Devna has been awarded for her coverage of K-12 education in the Carolinas.