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Medicaid Budget Could Be Millions Short

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 18 Sep 2013 08:08am | comments

Mississippi's Division of Medicaid could be $77 million short of the cash it needs to finish the fiscal year and could soon become a $1 billion a year program.  Medicaid is continuing to grow even without a controversial expansion.

The director of the division of Medicaid Dr. David Dzielak appeared before the Joint Legislative Budget Committee yesterday to request an additional $77 million for the current fiscal year, which would push the program over $900 million a year.

 He is also projecting that the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July first, will cost nearly $1 billion.

 That does not include any of the roughly $300,000 Mississippians that the legislature could add to the program, as part of the federal health care reform law.

 Dzielak chose not to include those projections in his presentation.

 "It wasn't on the table. So it wasn't really something that the legislature was interested in since they turned it down last year. There was not point putting it in there," Dzielak said.

 Dzielak says some other mandatory changes in the law will add more people and drive growth in population and cost.

 Lt. Governor Tate Reeves says the legislature has spoken on the issue of Medicaid expansion.

 "I don't believe there is any support in the legislature. There is support among our Democrat friends but there isn't sufficient support in the legislature that that is going to be an issue," Reeves said.

 Democrats have made pushing Medicaid expansion one of their top goals.

 Democratic Committee member Senator Willie Simmons of Clarksdale thinks the state should expand Medicaid because the federal government is offering to pay the bulk of the cost.

 "Even when you look at the federal budget, the share of it, compared to what the state is putting in and yet we feel comfortable leaving that money on the table? I just don't feel comfortable with that and feel we should aggressively be pursuing that to give as many of our citizens coverage as possible," Simmons said.

 The Medicaid  budget and the potential expansion will likely be major topics when state lawmakers begin their 2014 legislative session in January.

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