CCF and the Mississippi Center for Justice recently jointly released the first in a series of factsheets dedicated to examining the landscape of low-wage, uninsured workers in states that have not yet expanded Medicaid. The factsheet, titled “A Profile of Mississippi’s Low-Wage Uninsured Workers” comes as the American Rescue Plan provides new incentives for states to adopt Medicaid expansion and extend coverage for all adults earning less than $17,775 per year. This would be a huge step for the state, as it would translate to approximately 166,600 Mississippians gaining coverage– cutting the state’s uninsured population almost in half.
Many of these Mississippians work in the service sector. Restaurants and construction were the top two industries for Mississippi’s low-wage workers, comprising almost 20% of all workers, and 27% of uninsured workers when combined. These Mississippians are also in charge of caring for others throughout the life spectrum– elementary and secondary education, as well as nursing care facility professionals, are at the top of the low-wage industry list.
Within these sectors, cashiers, maids/housekeepers, cooks, and waiters/waitresses are the top occupations of Mississippi’s uninsured worker population. It is important to note that this is gendered work– at least 60% of all food preparation, sales, as well as cleaning and maintenance occupations are made up of those who identify as female. This is significant as Mississippi’s average pregnancy-related mortality ratio was found to be 1.9 times higher than the United States’ ratio. And as we know, Medicaid benefits women of childbearing age and their children.
This data also highlights that many uninsured, employed individuals are in rural areas. Of the ten counties with the highest rates of uninsured, employed adults, eight are considered rural, and almost all of these counties have uninsured rates above 20%. This underscores what we already know about how crucial expansion is to rural hospitals, ensuring that workers in rural areas would not just be covered, but have adequate access to services once they are covered.
With an estimated $400 million in savings to the state on the table if Mississippi takes up expansion with the new incentives– alongside the ever-growing body of evidence around the residual economic, social, and physical benefits of Medicaid expansion– all eyes are on Mississippi. At this stage of the ongoing COVID-19 recovery, anything less than full expansion would do nothing but leave Mississippians with the short end of the stick.