In a column distributed to Mississippi newspapers, former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove said the state should end its resistance to accepting the Affordable Care Act’s enticements to expand Medicaid.

Musgrove, the governor from 2000-04, joined other advocates who have pointed out that Mississippi has a high percentage of uninsured workers that would benefit from the assistance, that the state’s population is among the nation’s least healthy, and that the money could be a lifesaver for a number of rural hospitals that are in danger of closing.

What was more interesting about Musgrove’s column is that it also addressed the issue from a different point of view.

“Mississippi has a history of coming around and doing what is in the best interest of the state and her citizens after everyone in the country has done it before us and gained the benefits from adoption of the programs,” he wrote.” The nagging question which lingers is, how much did it cost us in the interim when we did not adopt the program?”

He cited a few examples that certainly won’t change the minds of Gov. Tate Reeves and fellow Republicans who have steadfastly refused to consider expanding Medicaid, but still are food for thought.

Musgrove said the state’s refusal to change its flag until this year had to cost Mississippi jobs if companies refused to locate in the state because of the issue. If that is true, it should also be noted that he did not provide any specific examples, and no company that built elsewhere cited the former flag as the reason.

He makes a stronger point in noting that Mississippi was the last state in America to add kindergarten to its public schools, which prevented an untold number of students from getting a better start to their education.

Mississippi also was the last state to formally end Prohibition, and Musgrove said the lost liquor sales had to cost the state money and jobs.

He added that Mississippi remains one of the few states that does not provide pre-kindergarten in public schools, even though research shows children who start school before age 5 perform better as they get older, and as adults they rely less on government aid.

“Will we pass pre-k for all? Yes, eventually. When is the real question. Why will we pass it? Because we will see what other states have seen,” he wrote.

Musgrove said the state has left $11 billion in federal money on the table since the feds expanded Medicaid eight years ago. That is an awful lot of money to ignore over principle, especially with the knowledge that it would have helped working people.

The governor noted correctly that Mississippi took, and spent, billions in federal money to recover from Hurricane Katrina, the Great Recession and the coronavirus. Why, he asks, are state leaders unwilling to do the same thing for health care? It’s a fair question.

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