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Senate Committee Facing Deadline To Renew Medicaid

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 04 Feb 2013 10:08am | comments

Tomorrow is the deadline for the Senate Public Health Committee to vote on a bill that would re-authorize Mississippi's Medicaid program. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the focus is on the senate committee since House democrats shot down a re-authorization bill last week.

The bill in the Senate Committee would re-authorize the Medicaid program for another year.

The program currently provides health insurance to 630-thousand Mississippians.

It also includes portions that democrats believe they could use to expand the program to 300-thousand new Mississippians, which is a provision in the health care reform law.

Senate Public Health committee chairman Dean Kirby of Pearl says he included that language because he wanted to make sure the whole program could be addressed.

"I thought it would leave it open for debate. I also feel that people have the right to debate an issue. But I have no intention in committee or on the floor of voting for expansion. I am going to fight it every way we can," Kirby said.

Democrats defeated the house bill last week because it did not have provisions to expand the Medicaid system.

Republicans pounced on the vote claiming Democrats want to kill the Medicaid program.
Speaker of the House Phillip Gun says the vote is irresponsible.

"There maneuver if you want to call it that has effectively worked to terminate the services of those people and I don't understand that. The leadership of the Democratic caucus has misguided them and I think it is a short-sighted approach," Gunn said.

But Democrats in both chambers see Medicaid expansion as one of their top priorities this session.

Senator David Blount of Jackson says expanding the Medicaid program makes health and economic sense.

"Not only would it improve health care but the economic benefit of 90-95% of the money coming from the federal government into this state. It is a good deal for the state of Mississippi. And I hope, regardless of who people voted for for president, they will look at the numbers and do what is right for the state," Blount said.

Republicans remain firm that the state cannot afford to expand the program which could cost roughly a billion dollars over the next ten years.

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