AFFORDABLE, QUALITY HEALTH CARE FOR ALL MISSISSIPPIANS
I know how important affordable health care is for all Mississippians, because it’s part of my family’s legacy. In 1924, my grandfather, Thomas J. Huddleston, started the first Black-owned hospital in Mississippi at the height of Jim Crow. Through ingenuity and hard work, for 50 years, the Afro-American Sons and Daughters Hospital served Black residents of Mississippi, many of which had few options for care. Within circumstances of poverty and discrimination, the Afro-American Sons and Daughters Hospital gave quality, affordable health care to thousands.
Following in the footsteps of my grandfather, I will work to guarantee all Mississippians access to quality and affordable health care — which is so desperately needed especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Too many Mississippians are getting crushed by the rising cost of premiums, copays, and prescription drugs.
THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
I am committed to building upon the Affordable Care Act in order to lower health care costs for all Mississippians. The Affordable Care Act lowered costs for high-quality health insurance, provided essential protections for people with pre-existing conditions, allowed children to stay on a parent’s or guardian’s plan through the age of 26, and guaranteed health insurance includes essential care benefits, such as maternal care.
Over 600,000 Mississippians — more than a third of our state — have a pre-existing condition. I count myself as one of them. I know what it’s like to struggle with your health insurance coverage or get charged thousands of dollars for necessary treatment. I will fight to make sure that the pre-existing conditions protections in the Affordable Care Act are maintained so that no one with a pre-existing condition is charged more for insurance or denied it altogether.
A large part of the Affordable Care Act is Medicaid expansion. Thirty-nine states and D.C. have expanded Medicaid — but not Mississippi. I want to expand Medicaid as a way to support our rural hospitals as they face a growing crisis over uncompensated care.
As a child, I suffered from chronic asthma. And it was the care of rural hospitals that saved me from a severe asthma attack. Yet last year, a young mother from northeast Mississippi tragically died of an asthma attack because her rural hospital’s emergency room had closed years prior due to financial insecurity and she was too far away from the nearest hospital to get treatment in time. The young mother who passed in 2019 and I had the same problem — an asthma attack — nearly 60 years apart. But for all the progress we’ve made in those 60 years, we have failed our rural hospitals and our rural communities because we won’t expand Medicaid to guarantee affordable and accessible health care to every Mississippi.
In the last decade, five rural hospitals have closed and hundreds of beds have been lost in our state. In 2019, half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals were considered “at risk” for closure. The revenue from Medicaid expansion is needed now more than ever to undergird our rural hospitals, to fill the gap for uncompensated care, to address the long-term care crisis, and to be able to enroll an additional 210,000 uninsured Mississippians.
By failing to expand Medicaid, Mississippi has willingly rejected $11.1 billion in federal funds over the last decade. The best time to expand Medicaid was years ago, but Mississippi can no longer wait. That’s why I am calling on our federal leaders to ensure future funding requires Medicaid expansion in states like ours.
Four out of 10 Mississippians report not purchasing a prescription drug due to high prices. For lifesaving medicines like insulin, that’s just not an option. Drug prices have skyrocketed in the last few years, making them more out of reach for many Mississippians.
In the Senate, I will push to allow the federal government to negotiate drug prices on behalf of Medicare Part D. Right now, Medicare — which currently makes up 30% of U.S. spending on prescription drugs, is prohibited from negotiating prices, forcing Medicare to accept high prices set by manufacturers and driving up the cost for the rest of the market. I will also support importing prescription drugs from other countries that meet U.S. Department of Health and Human Services standards for drug safety. As Senator, I will also advocate for eliminating pay-for-delay. Under a bipartisan proposal, pharmaceutical companies would be prohibited from paying generic pharmaceutical manufacturers to not release a cheaper version of a brand-name drug.
By allowing Medicare to negotiate prices, importing less expensive drugs from other countries like Canada, and increasing generic prescription drugs available to Americans, we can increase competition in the pharmaceutical market to bring prices down for everyone.
SENIORS AND LONG-TERM CARE
The U.S. population is getting older — and we are facing a long-term care crisis. By 2050, one in five Americans will be of retirement age. Medicare does not cover most long-term care needs — and seniors are often faced with a difficult choice: Either cost-cut around health care and long-term care or deplete life savings to qualify for Medicaid.
In the Senate, I will work to strengthen Medicare and expand its coverage. In August 2020, the President threatened to gut Medicare and Social Security — and my opponent has been silent. This isn’t the first time she has been against the more than 600,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Mississippi. She backs a lawsuit peddled by the Administration that could call into question multiple aspects of Medicare, threatening the survival of the entire program and leaving millions of seniors out in the cold.
In order to address our ever-increasing need for affordable long-term care, I will work to reduce the costs of long-term care insurance, work to provide financial relief to caregivers, ensure paid family leave, boost the long-term care workforce, and increase seniors’ accessibility to housing, transit, and essential services.
HEALTH CARE DISPARITIES IN MISSISSIPPI
Black Mississippians are bearing the brunt of this pandemic. COVID-19 has exacerbated health disparities resulting from years of institutional discrimination, lack of funding, and racial bias. There are wide disparities in chronic health conditions, health insurance rates, and access to health care.
By expanding coverage, making services more affordable, and demanding accountability, we can begin to close the gaps in health outcomes.
Nearly 10 years ago, the federal government found that Mississippi failed to provide services to individuals with mental illness and intellectual and developmental disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. While progress has been made, I know that many Mississippians lack access to affordable, high-quality mental health and substance abuse services.
As your Senator, I promise to make sure insurance companies provide equal access to mental health and addiction treatment and that when Mississippians, especially seniors, young people, and veterans, need treatment or resources, they can find high-quality care close to home. In addition to expanding coverage, I will support innovative methods to increase access to mental health treatment, including use of telehealth or hotline programs.
As your Senator, I will fight to lower prescription drug prices, decrease the cost of premiums and copays and ensure that no matter where you live, you can get the high-quality care you need. Making health care more affordable and accessible isn’t Republican or Democrat — it’s just the right thing to do.