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Among his priorities for the next legislative session, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann wants lawmakers to tackle improving the delivery of health care. “Delivery of health care” encompasses a number of issues for Hosemann, but it is also his way of approaching that taboo topic of Medicaid expansion.

Hosemann’s latest approach is seemingly to talk about it without calling it by name. He’s blunt about his reasoning, too. In a meeting with the Daily Journal editorial board in May, he said he didn’t want people to get caught up on monikers and trigger words. At the State of the Region meeting in Tupelo, he made similar remarks.

In essence, Hosemann wants to approach any talk of Medicaid expansion via a more wholistic approach to health care in the state. Mississippians face several impediments to receiving adequate access to health care. Likewise, medical providers have certain concerns and issues that face them. And there is no single cure for all of them – not even Medicaid expansion. So, in that way, Hosemann’s approach makes not just political but practical sense, as well.

However, the glaring and growing reality is that the lack of Medicaid expansion in Mississippi is hurting our health care system. Continued threats to lack of access in rural areas, cost-savings for hospitals and health care coverage for working people who do not have employer-provided health care could all be addressed through Medicaid expansion.

It is sad that Hosemann has to take this approach to debating health care, but he recognizes an ugly truth about the state of our political discourse: Too many state leaders are incapable of debating an important issue because it once was politically advantageous to vilify it, and now they are too weak-willed to even contemplate changing their position.

But there are other state leaders, like Hosemann, who have kept an open mind and are willing to listen to what their constituents are telling them. Sen. Chad McMahan, R-Guntown, recently said he believes it is time for a new discussion about Medicaid expansion for just that reason.

“I’m hearing from farmers, who are small business owners employing as many as 10 employees, that want health insurance for their families and their employees,” he wrote in a guest column to the Daily Journal. “Some of the largest corporations in the state are located in the district I represent, and they are expressing their desire to expand Medicaid for their employees and their families.”

Neither McMahan nor Hosemann are outright advocating for Medicaid expansion, but neither are refusing to consider it, either. They welcome a discussion because with serious issues facing Mississippi’s health care system, it would be irresponsible to ignore any possible solution.

As Hosemann put it in Tupelo last week: “I’ll tell you what I’m for, I’m for working people having the ability to have health care. You’ve got a mom making $50,000 and a dad making $50,000 – which is good money – but she gets cancer, and it breaks the family.”

Whatever you want to call it, it is time for Mississippi lawmakers to have a real conversation about the best solutions to our health care woes – and that includes taking an honest look at Medicaid expansion.

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