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Lawmakers Explore Options for Medicaid Renewal

By Daniel Cherry | Published 21 Feb 2013 07:25pm | comments
Mississippi lawmakers are exploring their options for keeping the state's Medicaid program running. The program provides health care to more than 600 thousand low-income and elderly Mississippians. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports, unless the legislature passes a reauthorization bill, the program will expire June 30th.
 
There's a saying in the legislature, a bill isn't dead until it's dead, dead, dead. Lawmakers hope that holds true because currently, all reauthorization bills for the state's Medicaid program are dead, and Governor Phil Bryant says that's causing some concern.
 
"There's a great deal of anxiety, I can assure you, with children and parents who are in long-term care facilities who are saying, 'What would happen if Medicaid is not reauthorized?' Now everybody says, 'That's going to happen, don't worry about it.' But it still hasn't happened yet."
 
Democrats killed the House reauthorization bill because it didn't leave the door open for Medicaid expansion, but lawmakers agree, it would be a disaster to not renew the program. Republican Representative Toby Barker explains some of the options.
 
"If 2/3rds of each body decided to suspend the rules to allow the introduction of a new technical amendments bill we could go that route, or the Governor could call a special session."
 
Here's Democratic Representative Steve Holland. House Democrats have filed dozens of resolutions asking leadership to suspend the rules and bring up a Senate bill that died in committee because that bill allows debate on Medicaid expansion.
 
"I don't have any problem with the Governor calling a special session, but I think we first need to put our priority and our energy on letting the legislative process work. Let's get a little further down the road, see what is going to happen, and then let's suspend the rules. And we're going to re-endorse the program because health care can't work in this state without a Medicaid program."
 
Lawmakers say some compromise is necessary to keep Medicaid running. A reauthorization bill requires a 3/5ths vote so that means some legislators will have to cross the aisle to keep the program upright. Daniel Cherry...MPB News.

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