Health Care Forum Raises Debate

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

A recent report claims, during 2006, almost one million Mississippians were without health insurance.

And just Tuesday, Gov. Haley Barbour said the state children's health insurance program that passed the U.S. House of Representatives short- changed Mississippi.

Is there a solution to this health insurance pitfall in the state? Candidates in statewide elections weighed in on the topic.

At the Mississippi Health Care Foundation's residents convention, seniors and their caregivers listened as Barbour, his Democratic opponent, John Eaves, and State Auditor Phil Bryant, who is running for lieutenant governor, all promised to uphold their end of the bargain. That is, to keep funding programs that maintain their nursing homes and their quality of life in those homes.

But what can be done about those Mississippians living and working without health insurance?

The governor denounced the re-authorization of S-Chip in Washington D.C., a program designed to provide health coverage for children at or below 200 percent of poverty.

"The size of the grant in Mississippi is not big enough to cover the federal share for even half of the eligible children," Barbour said Wednesday.

Eaves said he hopes to expand coverage if elected. He says the uninsured are costing those who currently have health insurance.

"We are already paying in the cost of not insuring our children. Every Mississippian who has insurance is paying $747 per year per family to cover the cost of the uninsured," Eaves said.

But if the goal is to provide coverage for everyone who needs it, what must be done to accomplish that? How can Mississippi fill in the gaps between those Medicaid and S-Chip covers and those who can't afford health insurance?

"We may not be able to afford the Cadillac version," said Bryant. "We may have to go with the Chevy plan. But we cannot let these children that need that health care fall off of those rolls and go to an unprotected lifestyle."

Bryant said some of the issue also lies with the overall health of Mississippi.
The state has the highest obesity rate and has a higher percentage of smokers than any other state.

Bryant said he favors programs to teach school children how to live healthier and the importance of physical activity.

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