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Legislature Ends Session Without Funding Medicaid Program

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 04 Apr 2013 04:13pm | comments
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Hess/MPB News-Legislators applaud as legislative session is gaveled out.

Mississippi Lawmakers are leaving Jackson with one of the state's biggest agencies unfunded and not approved for another year.  Lawmakers finished their three month legislative session without renewing the state's Medicaid program.

 Leading Republican lawmakers are quick to highlight their successes this legislative session including approving a budget and passing a broad education agenda.

 But lawmakers have left the capitol with a bitter fight still waiting in the wings and that is whether or not to fund Mississippi's Medicaid program and expand it to cover 300,000 more Mississippians.

 Democrats held up funding for the program in an effort to force a vote on expansion - a vote, that Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn says was never in the cards.

 "It is not good stewardship of the short amount of time we have down here. It would be done simply for political showmanship and I am not in the business of political showmanship. " said Gunn.  "We are not playing politics down here. We are not going to engage in a debate that would end up and result in no bill being passed." 

 The program is set to expire June 30th.

 The governor is  likely call a special session prior to its expiration, but he is not saying when that will be.

 Lawmakers could soon be feeling much more political heat because the Division of Medicaid is required to send out letters notifying residents of changes to the program.

 House Medicaid Chairman Bobby Howell of Kilmichael says those letters could potentially say there will soon be no program at all.

 "I think legal requirement is that is has to be out at least 30 days prior to the change," said Howell. 

 House appropriation chair,  Herb Frierson of Poplarville considers not passing a Medicaid budget as a personal failure, but thinks both sides share the blame.

 "You are going to have the entire legislature in a septic and when they all climb out, when it is settled, they are going to have the same 'poo-poo' on them. And both sides are thinking they can blame it on the other side." said Frierson. "That is what I meant, that you are playing a dangerous game of political chicken." 

 For now, the battle lines remain where they were during the session with democrats maintaining that expanding Medicaid makes health care and economic sense, while their Republican colleagues say the state cannot afford it.

*Video below of closing session of 2013 legislative session*

 

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Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Hess/MPB News-Legislators applaud as legislative session is gaveled out.


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