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Proposed Medicaid Changes Could Effect Enrollment

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 13 Feb 2012 10:31pm | comments

Mississippi lawmakers are looking at ways of trimming and cutting the cost of the state's Medicaid program. Currently 1 in 4 Mississippi is on Medicaid. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports on proposed changes to the program that could come this legislative session.

Medicaid, the federally supported health insurance program for low income and disabled people, covers more than 600-thousand Mississippians and costs the state more then 760-million dollars a year.

The rising cost of Medicaid has had the attention of state law makers like Senator Chris McDaniel of Ellisville for years.

"The Medicaid program we have not is not sustainable in the long term. It simply is not. We don't have the money, the country doesn't have the money," McDaniel said.

At least two bills have been introduced in the legislature, controlling who gets on Medicaid and how they stay on, including one by McDaniel to test Medicaid recipients for nicotine.

"The cost associated with smoking in Medicaid amount to about 264-million dollars in Mississippi. To put that in perspective, for every pack of cigarettes purchased by Medicaid recipient cost the state directly a buck-oh-four," McDaniel said.

Under McDaniel's bill People who fail a nicotine test could stay on the program if they enter a smoking cessation program, if not, they could lose their eligibility for one year.

Another bill has been filed in the senate to require medicaid recipients to re-enroll every six months, instead of once a year.

Ann McClain with Disability Rights Mississippi says the additional requirements could cause people who are eligible for the program to avoid it.

"It has, I guess you would say, a chilling effect about whether people can stay on.  Not because they are no longer eligible but just because of the mechanics of having to do that every year. If they want to every six months it would be a huge burden on the recipients and it would be a huge burden on the state agency," McClain said.

The issue could become even more pressing if the health care reform law takes effect in 2014, which could push Medicaid enrollment close to one-million Mississippians.

While the federal government will cover all the new cost for the first three years, the state will eventually have to pay for 10% of the benefits for the new people on the program which could amount to 400-million dollars a year or more.

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