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Democrats Offer Alternate Medicaid Plan

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 06 Mar 2013 01:17pm | comments

Mississippi Democratic lawmakers are offering what they consider a compromise deal to keep the state's Medicaid program alive.

Efforts to renew Medicaid have stalled while Democratic and Republican lawmakers battle over whether or not to expand it to cover roughly 300-thousand additional Mississippians.

Democratic representative Cecil Brown of Jackson says they have given a letter to the governor laying out a plan that would tie Medicaid expansion to potential reductions in federal payments to hospitals that is included in the health care reform law.

"What the Governor and others are  saying is they don't think its actually going to happen. We think it is going to happen. That's what the law says. That is what the experts say. But the Governor keeps saying 'well they haven't come  down with the rules yet'. we are saying 'OK, lets just wait' but lets go on and tie it. If they come down with rules that actually cuts the amount we get from the federal government than we will expand medicaid. If they don't then we won't expand Medicaid," Brown said.

If Medicaid is not expanded, Mississippi hospitals say they would have to cut services and lay off staff because of the reduction in Federal spending.

Democrats have made expanding Medicaid a top legislative priority.

Governor Phil Bryant does not consider that a comprise at all.

Bryant says even if the feds reduce the payments the effect won't be immediate, but could potentially be unconstitutional.

"We believe that they would be in violation of the United States Supreme Court decision which says you cannot punish a state for not expanding Medicaid. And they certainly would be punishing us. So I don't think that ought to be a trigger. I continue to go back to the fact that we simply cannot afford it in the state of Mississippi. And I don't trust the federal government to pay 100% of Medicaid for the next three years," Bryant said. .

Bryant says he is considering calling a special session focusing on Medicaid, which is one of the few remaining options to re-authorize the program before it expires at the end of June.

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