JACKSON, Miss.—Mississippi can wait to expand Medicaid until former President Donald Trump is reelected, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann told reporters on Thursday. The House and Senate failed to reach a compromise on Medicaid expansion after Hosemann, the Senate president, and other Senate leaders insisted on tethering it to work requirements that President Joe Biden’s administration is unlikely to approve.

All hope for expanding Medicaid in Mississippi died along with the bill on an 8 p.m. deadline Thursday.

The Republican Senate president said he’s spoken with leaders from Louisiana, Arkansas, Iowa and North Carolina, who have all applied for work requirements to expand Medicaid in their respective states.

“What we were doing is following what they thought was the appropriate thing. Now, if they don’t approve it, quite frankly, President Trump approved 13 of these before President Biden took them away,” Hosemann told reporters on Thursday. “So in November, where we have an election where we got the president of the United States as a Republican, then it would have sailed through. Instead, I got to wait until next January to apply, so we could’ve been over that step.”

The Senate is determined to keep a work requirement in the Medicaid expansion bill, which the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services must approve before more Mississippians could receive access to health care. Trump’s administration approved 13 states’ work requirements for Medicaid expansion, but President Joe Biden’s administration denied the waivers when the states reapplied during his term.

Trump is currently facing 88 felony criminal indictments across four jurisdictions, including state charges in New York and Georgia and federal charges in Florida and Washington, D.C. The ex-president is currently on trial in New York over hush-money payments made during the 2016 election while a federal trial in the nation’s capital over his plot to overthrow the 2020 election awaits a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on his claims of presidential immunity from prosecution.

Ballot Referendum Idea Struck

The Senate’s Monday compromise bill, which the House originally agreed to but later decided not to vote on, said a person who makes less than 138% of the federal poverty level must work 100 hours a month to receive expanded Medicaid. If CMS denied the waiver, the state could reapply later if CMS switched stances and approved another state’s work requirement, but no one would have access to expanded care without federal approval.

The House was hesitant to agree to the compromise on Monday, with Democrats threatening to vote against the bill. On Wednesday, House Speaker Jason White, R-West, said the House was writing a proposal to add Medicaid expansion to the ballot in November for voters to decide if and how the state should expand Medicaid. The ballot would have asked two questions: “Should Mississippi expand Medicaid? If so, should the expansion include a work requirement?”

Jason White speaks from the podium at the Mississippi Capitol.
Mississippi House Speaker Jason White proposed putting Medicaid expansion on a ballot referendum on May 1, 2024, but Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann shot down the idea. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

The Senate leader expressed frustration that the House and Senate could not come to an agreement to expand Medicaid for 74,000 working Mississippians.

“We had a chance to help working people, and it got hazy and cloudy by a lot of other things that happened in between,” he said. “So, I’m not pleased with that, and it’s my job when we come back next year (to) bring my senators together to get health care for working people.”

Faith Leaders: Work Requirement Shouldn’t Halt Health Care

Work requirements should not stop Mississippi from expanding health care access for thousands of low-income Mississippians, faith leaders from Working Together Mississippi said at a press conference at the Mississippi Capitol on Thursday.

“It strikes me that the most vulnerable people out there are the folks that are not currently working, and it seems to be a big gap that all the great religious traditions speak about are imperative to take care of our most vulnerable society,” Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi Bishop Brian Seage said to reporters.

Six men, some with priest collars, speak behind a podium with a sign for Working Together Mississippi. "Expand Care, Expand Opportunity, Expand Hope, Expand Medicaid"
Mid-South Diocese of the Fellowship of International Churches Bishop Ronnie Crudup said on May 2, 2024, that while Working Together Mississippi members do not think the state needs a work requirement to expand Medicaid, the organization is not opposed to having one if it means more Mississippians can access health care—as long as the work requirement does not hinder expansion from going into effect. Photo by Heather Harrison

While Working Together Mississippi members do not think the state needs a work requirement to expand Medicaid, Mid-South Diocese of the Fellowship of International Churches Bishop Ronnie Crudup said the organization is not opposed to having one if it means more Mississippians can access health care—as long as the work requirement does not hinder expansion from going into effect.

“When we stand before the Lord and he asks us what we have done, he’s not going to ask us ‘Did we give health care to people who are not working to save the state money or did we help those who were needy?’” Seage added.

Seage, Crudup and Catholic Diocese of Jackson, Miss., Monsignor Elvin Sunds called for legislators to abandon partisanship and work together to help Mississippians who do not have access to health care.

“We’ve got until 8 p.m. this evening, and we want them to work diligently and give the state of Mississippi, give working-class poor people what they rightfully deserve because we believe it’s the right thing to do, it’s the moral thing to do, and with who we see ourselves as Mississippians, it’s the Mississippi thing to do,” Crudup said.

This story has been updated to note that the Medicaid expansion bill died on the 8 p.m. deadline on Thursday, May 2, 2024.

Reporter Heather Harrison graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in Communication in 2023. She worked at The Reflector student newspaper for three years, starting as a staff writer, then the news editor before becoming the editor-in-chief. During her time at The Reflector, Heather won 13 awards for her multi-media journalism work.

In her free time, Heather likes to walk her dog, Finley, read books, and listen to Taylor Swift. Heather lives in Starkville, where she has spent the past four years. She is a Hazlehurst, Mississippi, native.