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Medicaid Fight Could Get Messy

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 15 Feb 2013 04:44pm | comments

Mississippi Democrats and Republicans are weighing their options and looking for a path forward to keep the state Medicaid program alive. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports Democrats believe they can still force a debate and potential vote on expanding the program to cover 300-thousand more Mississippi.

Both the Senate and House versions of a bill to re-authorize the Medicaid program appear to have died in the Mississippi House.

But the fight over Medicaid is far from over according to House Minority Leader Bobby Moak of Bouge Chitto.

Moak says Democrats still have a number of options to revive the Medicaid expansion fight.

"Under rule 95 you can still bring that Senate bill out of the committee where it was killed. Suspension resolutions are still available this session. The session is still early so this is no reason for tremendous amounts of concern," Moak said.

Those actions would require at least a two-thirds vote of the full lhouse or pass through the rules committee.

That committee is chaired by Republican Representative Mark Formby of Picayune, it is also the committee that killed the Senate version of the bill last week.

"If you consider it to be a snake, and I do, I am in a position to kill it. And my dad always taught me to the best way to kill a snake was when it crawled out of the hole," Formby said.

Governor Phil Bryant could also get involved...He has promised to run the program by executive order if the legislature does not act.

Democratic Representative Steve Holland of Plantersville doubts that such a move would be legal.

"It cannot legally happen. It cannot legally happen. He cannot do it. He does not have the authority to tax, number one. And the tax went away. 170-million dollars worth of the appropriations went away today. So where is he going to make that up," Holland said.

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn says Bryant could potentially call law makers into a special session focused only on Medicaid.

"He could call a special session. He could call a special session within a session. He could call a special session on June 29th. He could not call a special session at all and he could deal with it," Gunn said.

Both sides are eager to have the other receive blame for 'killing' the existing Medicaid program and cutting off benefits to the 600-thousand Mississippians on it.

Either way, it is unlikely that this is the last time Medicaid will be at the center of the debate before the session ends in early April.




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