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Medicaid Stands in Miss. Without Expansion

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 01 Jul 2013 03:42pm | comments

Some 700,000 Mississippians are continuing to receive Medicaid benefits. After a two day special session, Mississippi lawmakers have avoided a deadline that threatened to shutter the program.  Lawmakers approved a plan that renews Medicaid for another year without expanding it to 300,000 additional residents.

Lawmakers approved a plan late Friday night after two-long days of special session intended to save Medicaid.

Governor Phil Bryant has been at the forefront of opposition to Medicaid expansion, saying it will cost the state too much. Bryant reacted to the approval of the existing Medicaid program with satisfaction.

“We needed to move and I felt it had done everything we had accomplished. So I am very proud of it. The speaker and Lt. Governor working together to accomplish our goals. It is still something we shouldn't get used to. Special sessions are something I will be very frugal with in the future. But this obviously had to be done,” Bryant said.

The clock was running down on Medicaid because the partisan divide over Medicaid expansion led to lawmakers finishing their regular session in April without a plan to keep Medicaid running. Federal law gives the state the option to expand Medicaid to 300-thousand additional Mississippians.

Until late Friday night, it appeared that Democrats would continue to hold out on renewing  Medicaid, until a quick maneuver in the Senate left them feeling like they had no choice but to give up their expansion dreams for a year.

“I think we have been snookered,”

That's Democratic Representative Cecil Brown of Jackson.

“this was simply a political stunt by our senate to force something down our throats and stick a finger in the eye of the governor of the state of Mississippi. I don’t care who the governor is he doesn’t deserve that.”

The final vote was overwhelmingly in favor of re-newing Medicaid for another year.

Still, Democrats are expecting another expansion fight during the next legislative session. The Democratic Minority leader Bobby Moak of Bouge Chitto warned his colleagues to learn from this experience.

“I have been part of bamboozling the other chamber a lot and I don’t like getting bamboozled. So I think we need to work a little bit together next time and make sure you are not on the receiving end of the Bamboozle stick,” Moak said.

State republicans left the capitol feeling like that they were victorious as well.

Senator Terry Brown of Columbus is the second ranking Republican in the Senate.

“We got 700-thousand of our people on it right now. To increase to 300-thousand more…and the federal government can tell you all they want that they are going to give you free money. It cost somebody. It cost somebody. I just don’t want Mississippi to be a part of the train wreck,” said the Senate’s number two Republican Terry Brown.

Both the Lt. Governor and Speaker of the house sent out press releases extolling the plan.

Advocates for Medicaid expansion also sent out statements expressing disappointment with the outcome. 

The taxes that support the program are set to expire next year, likely setting up another round of debate and potential showdown over Medicaid and Medicaid expansion. 

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