Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Monday that he would support expanding Medicaid in Mississippi if elected as lieutenant governor if the cost to taxpayers isn’t significant.

The three-term secretary of state made his remarks at the Stennis Capitol Press Forum.

“I think we can come up with something acceptable and affordable,” Hosemann said. “When we get close enough to where the cost (to state taxpayers) is not significant, that’d be something we’d consider. It needs to be where the state is not out significant amounts of money.

“The way you do that is you do accurate projections on how many people are going to be added on, what’s their cost. There are a number of different plans out there, work requirements and it’s like everything else, you start by taking each one of these steps and get it to where it’s closer to break even.”

He said the state would receive about $800 million in federal money to expand the program, which is intended to provide taxpayer-funded health insurance coverage for low income people. He also said the state match would add up to about $200 million.

Twenty four percent of all Mississippians are on Medicaid, even without the expansion which was authorized by the Affordable Care Act.

When Louisiana expanded Medicaid in 2016, projections said that 306,000 new people would enroll, but those numbers have grown exponentially to 502,055 this year. That’s a 64 percent increase.

In 2015, Louisiana’s Medicaid program served 1,313,387 residents. By October 2018, the program was serving 1,623,869 residents.

The numbers for Medicaid expansion’s cost in Mississippi by Hosemann are even higher than a previous state study on Medicaid expansion would suggest.

According to a 2012 study by the Institutes for Higher Learning, Medicaid expansion would cost state taxpayers $148.7 million in 2021 in a high enrollment scenario (95 percent participation by eligible residents), $132.6 million in a medium scenario (85 percent participation) and $124 million in a low enrollment scenario (75 percent participation).

Hosemann said the primary theme of his campaign will be an educated workforce. He said he wants the community college “embedded” in the high schools and he wants to increase the state’s 55 percent labor force participation rate by 1 percent per year.

Hosemann also said that he’d support annual teacher pay raises, “not just in an election year.”

He decried that $80 million of the projected revenue from the state’s new lottery will go to the Mississippi Department of Transportation for highway maintenance and repair under the $250 million infrastructure package passed during the June special session by the legislature.