Medicaid purpose of special session
by Rory Doyle
Jun 26, 2013 | 899 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Mississippi Legislature will enter a special session Thursday in hopes of funding and re-authorizing the Division of Medicaid before it is repealed at midnight Sunday.

Gov. Phil Bryant announced the session Monday afternoon, and is now asking lawmakers to come up with a solution in just a few days — something they couldn't do in the three months of the regular session.

Bryant wants legislators to adopt a Medicaid budget and keep the program alive once the new fiscal year begins July 1.

If the Legislature is unable to reach an agreement, uncertainty would remain for the federal-state agency and the 644,000 elderly, disabled, poor pregnant women and poor children who receive their heath care through Medicaid.

"I urge the Legislature to act immediately upon convening to authorize and fund the Division of Medicaid," Bryant said in a statement. "Taxpayers should not have to pay for days of political showmanship, and Medicaid beneficiaries deserve to be freed from the uncertainty that has been thrust upon them."

During the 2013 regular session, Medicaid was not funded or reauthorized for the new fiscal year because of strife in the state House where the Democratic minority sought to force Speaker Phil Gunn, R-Clinton, to allow a vote in the chamber on expanding Medicaid to cover 300,000 additional Mississippians, primarily the working poor.

Sen. Willie Simmons, D-District 13, Bolivar, Humphreys and Sunflower counties, is confident the program will be reauthorized before the deadline.

"I'm glad that the governor recommended we hold the special session to at least reauthorize Medicaid," said Simmons. "There would be such a negative impact without it to our citizens and patients enrolled in the program.

"We have too many people in Mississippi in the program not to reauthorize it."

Simmons said the 300,000-person expansion would not be included in the call, but it could be debated and questioned.

Bryant, the only one capable of calling a special session, also sets the agenda, which does not included acceptance of expansion.

This stops Democrats from trying to redefine who can be covered by the federal-state health insurance program.

"There are two things we'll get done — one, reauthorize the program, and two, appropriate state monies to match the federal dollars," said Simmons.

"I doubt that there will be very few legislators to vote against it," Simmons added. "Medicaid is not just a needed program but it's also an economic tool.

"We get so much back from Medicaid — nearly a three-to-one return on the dollar."

If for some reason terms are not established, health coverage for more than one-in-five Mississippi residents is at stake.