A coalition of clergy from around the state urged lawmakers on Thursday to pass legislation that fully expands Medicaid coverage to upwards of 200,000 poor Mississippians and cautioned them from enacting a watered-down plan that would only cover a fraction of that population. 

“We feel like full expansion is the best thing to do because we believe that full expansion is full gospel,” the Rev. Dr. Jason Coker said. “Because the gospel means good news, and this has got to be good news for the most vulnerable.” 

House and Senate leaders are in the process of negotiating a final bill to expand Medicaid coverage in some form to the working poor because both chambers have passed different plans. 

The House’s expansion plan aims to expand health care coverage to 138% of the federal poverty level, which is estimated to cover upwards of 200,000 Mississippians, and accept $1 billion a year in federal money to cover it, as most other states have done.

The Senate wants a more restrictive program, to expand Medicaid to cover around 40,000 people, turn down the federal money, and require proof that recipients are working roughly 30 hours a week. 

READ MORE: Gov. Tate Reeves’ newly-approved Medicaid plan would make expansion more lucrative for hospitals

“We, therefore, call upon the conferees from the House and Senate to reach a compromise and fully expand Medicaid up to 138% of the federal poverty level,” Bishop Ronnie Crudup Sr., the senior pastor of New Horizon Church International, said.

READ MORE: Q&A: Why Arkansas could be a model for Mississippi Medicaid expansion

House Speaker Jason White, a Republican from West, recently appointed Republican Rep. Missy McGee of Hattiesburg, Republican Rep. Sam Creekmore IV of New Albany and Republican Rep. Joey Hood of Ackerman to lead the House negotiations. 

READ MORE: Mississippi hospital officials say marketplace insurance helps, but not as much as Medicaid

Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, the leader of the Senate, has not yet appointed three senators to participate in the conference process, as of Thursday evening. 

The Thursday event was also a precursor to a “Full Expansion Day” rally that the coalition intends to host with hundreds of participants on the south steps of the state Capitol at 1 p.m. on April 16.  

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