MERIDIAN — Reckon conservatives will listen when two conservative, pro-capitalism columnists say health care is a big issue in Mississippi?

Both Wyatt Emmerich and Sid Salter have conservative views and come from the owner side of newspapers, where capitalism prevails. Both recently wrote powerful columns about the need to address health-care issues in Mississippi.

Emmerich wrote about Medicaid expansion and pointed to a Millsaps College poll that showed “‘making health care more accessible and affordable’ is the third most important issue to Mississippi voters, after fixing the roads and teacher pay raises” (“Medicaid rejection nonsensical for Miss.,” April 18).

Salter wrote about his own health-care challenges (“How to pay for health care?” April 25). He noted, “Aging baby boomers like me are going to significantly swell the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured over the next 20 years.”

Both the swelling and the vexing are with us already.

Sixty-three of Mississippi’s 82 counties lost population from 2010 through 2018, according to recently released U.S. Census Bureau data. Significantly, there is one population demographic that increased in every one of our 82 counties — people age 65 and older, the group Salter is closing in on.

This older population segment grew statewide by 21% while total population grew less than 1%. Wow!

Also significant was the change in the age 18-to-64 population demographic. Statewide this age group declined 1%. It declined in all 63 counties that lost population plus another eight counties. That the decrease wasn’t greater can be attributed to the growth of this segment in a handful of large population counties — DeSoto, Lamar, Madison, Harrison, Hancock and Rankin, all of which had good total population growth

In raw numbers, the older segment grew nearly 80,000, while the younger segment fell about 26,000.

Why do these trends matter?

Well, shrinkage of the 18-to-64 demographic, the major job-holding and taxpayer age group, will result in fewer people working and paying taxes in most Mississippi counties.

Growth of the 65-and-older demographic will result in more demand for Medicaid-funded nursing home beds, more Medicaid funding for poor elders on Medicare, and more health-care access to hospitals and clinics in rural areas, not to mention higher homestead exemption costs and more local services for seniors.

Hmmm.

Fewer people working and paying taxes in most counties with more people demanding taxpayer-funded services in every county — sounds pretty darn vexing to me.

No doubt that’s why Emmerich points out that Mississippi’s failure to expand Medicaid may be costing us both population growth and jobs.

He pointed to both Louisiana and Arkansas, which expanded Medicaid. Louisiana’s population grew 126,493 — seven times Mississippi’s growth rate. Arkansas’ grew 97,707 — five times Mississippi’s growth rate. He also noted that Arkansas tax collections jumped $200 million this year.

Hmmm.

Looks like these two conservative neighboring states are using Medicaid expansion to help grow their populations and provide needed health care to their citizens.

What will conservatives in Mississippi do?

Bill Crawford is a Republican former state lawmaker from Meridian.

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