Flaggs: Opponents should reconsider health care stand

Published 11:29 am Friday, July 27, 2012

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and other state opponents of the Affordable Care Act need to reconsider their position, Democratic Rep. George Flaggs said Thursday.

“I think it’s more political now, and after the election cooler heads will prevail, and we’re going to look at ways we can extend health care, particularly Medicaid,” he told members of the Vicksburg Rotary Club.

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 28 upheld by a 5-4 vote the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.” The act, which becomes effective in 2014, will expand Medicaid by raising income levels to include a larger number of people eligible for coverage.

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Flaggs, among Democrats in a minority in the House for the first time in his state tenure, said the expansion in Mississippi would include about 400,000 people and provide $10 billion in federal funds over three years to enable the state to implement coverage.

Bryant opposes expanding Medicaid because he said it will cost the state too much. Commissioner of Insurance Mike Chaney’s plans for a state insurance exchange, which could help provide people with affordable coverage, have been put on hold until after the November elections.

Flaggs believes there are provisions in the Affordable Care Act under the Medicaid provisions that can be used to make health care more accessible to people “without strings attached. It’s just a matter of how we do it.” He did not name any specific provisions.

“I know a lot of people are saying ‘don’t expand Medicaid now,’” he said, “but when you look at the consequence of not doing it, the $10 billion will be left on the table, 400,000 people will be under served, and hospitals can’t afford to not do nothing,” he said. “I think they’ll reconsider. If we don’t act, hospitals will go bankrupt.”

Flaggs, 59 and Warren County’s senior delegate to the Legislature, also is one of the state’s senior legislators. He was first elected in 1988 and has been re-elected six times. His current term runs through 2016.

Currently chairman of the House Corrections Committee, he is a member and former chairman of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee and a member of the Appropriations, Constitution, Public Health and Human Services and Rules and the Joint Legislative Budget committees.

He also has served on the Executive Contingency Fund, Fees and Salaries of Public Officials, Gaming, Investigate State Offices and Medicaid committees and the Joint Legislative Reapportionment and Congressional Redistricting Committee.

“Twenty-five years is a long time to serve, and I thank God and the people of Vicksburg for letting me do it,” he said. “Serving in the Mississippi Legislature can prepare you for just about anything. I enjoyed serving as chairman of the Banking and Finance Committee because I learned a lot about economics.”

He recalled a meeting in 1992 with then-Gov. Kirk Fordice, a Vicksburg resident and a Republican.

“He told me, ‘young man, if you’re going to serve over here, and you’re going to be effective, you’re going to put Vicksburg first in everything you do in Mississippi, and you’re going to represent Vicksburg with honesty and integrity.’ I appreciated that.”