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Medicaid Faces Setback In House Appropriations Process

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 19 Feb 2013 08:46pm | comments
Dr. Tim Alford.

The future of the funding stream for Medicaid in Mississippi is now being caught up in the battle over whether or not to expand the program. As MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the House appropriations committee has delayed a vote on spending the hundreds-of-millions of dollars to run the program.

The committee delayed a vote after Democrats pointed to language in the bill that would have given the Governor control of the program if the legislature did not re-authorize it.

Representative Robert Johnson of Natchez says giving the Governor authority over Medicaid would set a dangerous precedent.

"There is a legal issue as to whether or not the Governor can run it by executive order. And what this bill would essentially do, is he would be running it by de-facto executive order because we would be giving it to him legislative. And that is something I don't think we should do," Johnson said.

Democrats are also trying to force a debate over whether or not to expand Medicaid to cover an additional 300-thousand Mississippians...which is a provision in the federal health care reform law.

Committee chairman Herb Frierson of Poplarville says the appropriation bill would have pushed Democrats and Republicans closer to comprise on the future of Medicaid.

"It would have caused the people who do not want the governor to run medicaid and the people who want the technical amendments to pass cleanly and not expand Medicaid to sit down and work this out," Frierson said.

Meanwhile, advocates continue to lobby lawmakers to expand the program.

Dr. Tim Alford practices medicine in Kosciusko where he says he sees 6 to 8 patients a day who have no health insurance.

"And to say that these people that we are talking about, the working poor that we very much depend on, why would you not want those people to be productive in our society? Why would you want to just pretend they don't exist? Which is really what is happening here," Alford said.

Alford is a member of the Mississippi Academy of Family Practitioners  which recently voted to support expanding the Medicaid program as one way to address the lack of health care access for poor Mississippians.

Leading state Republicans have expressed concern that the state cannot afford to add more Mississippians to Medicaid.

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Dr. Tim Alford.


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