Medicaid bill says patients pay more, providers receive less
From staff and wire reports
Jan. 31, 2002
JACKSON Mississippians on Medicaid would have to pay more out of their own pockets under a bill that cleared a state House committee Wednesday.
The bill is designed to cover about $120 million of the program's $148 million deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30.
The bill would include a 5 percent reduction in rates Mississippi pays doctors, nursing homes and other Medicaid providers. It also would tap a tobacco trust fund to cover most of the deficit.
The bill now heads to the House budget-writing Appropriations Committee for consideration before reaching the full House for a vote.
Medicaid is a federal-state program that provides health coverage for the needy, aged, blind and disabled. About 22 percent of Mississippians depend on it.
The Public Health and Welfare Committee vote came less than a week after Gov. Ronnie Musgrove outlined his plan to fix Medicaid's financial woes.
Musgrove proposed using $48 million earmarked for rural roads. And he said the state could reap another $100 million by demanding large companies submit sales tax collections weekly instead of monthly.
Musgrove was expected to discuss the Medicaid issue at a news conference this morning at the Greater Meridian Health Clinic.
In the state Senate, Public Health and Welfare Chairman Robert Bunky'' Huggins, R-Greenwood, said he is waiting to see what the House delivers. He expects senators to endorse a budget-cutting plan because officials warn Medicaid could be broke by late February.
Moody said proposed changes would save $50 million to $60 million a year. Officials say Medicaid would save only a few million dollars before this budget year ends.
Moody said $108 million would be taken this budget year from the principal of the tobacco trust fund, which was established in 1999 with a settlement from Mississippi's lawsuit against tobacco companies.
The full $144 million payment that's due to the fund in December would be used for Medicaid. That would boost the program's budget in the fiscal year starting July 1.
Tobacco companies pay Mississippi millions of dollars a year, depending on their sales. The payments go into a trust fund and the fund's earnings are reserved for health care.
Moody said he has fought to protect the fund, but the deficit leaves few options. The bill would require the fund to be repaid in years the state has at least 5 percent budget growth.
Most states are struggling with Medicaid problems as a slumping economy is slowing revenues and putting more people out of work. Mississippi also has expanded Medicaid services in recent years.
The bill addressing the deficit cleared Moody's committee hours after lawmakers held a standing-room-only meeting at the Capitol to examine Musgrove's Medicaid budget ideas.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Gordon, D-Okolona, said the governor's proposal is unworkable because it relies on money that will only be available for one year.
What we have learned today is that the Legislature, which always the buck stops with us, we're the ones that's going to have to solve the problem with Medicaid,'' Gordon said after the meeting.
Moody's bill did not incorporate any of the governor's ideas, but some lawmakers say they're considering Musgrove's plans.
Musgrove was not asked to speak at Wednesday's budget meeting, though he attended most of it. Later, he said his plan will work.
I am not for cutting health care benefits to our seniors and to our children,'' the governor said.
Attorney General Mike Moore said state law requires the governor to cut optional Medicaid services if the program is running a deficit. He sent Musgrove a letter last week about the law.
Moore on Wednesday said he finds it a little bit interesting'' that since he sent the letter, Musgrove has had news conferences at a nursing home and an adolescent psychiatric home to speak against Medicaid cuts.
Shoot the messenger when you want to,'' Moore said. But when you shoot the messenger, you shoot the law.''
The bill is House Bill 1200.