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franklin county times

Barbour's challenge: Show me the money'

By Staff
from staff and wire reports
Oct. 15, 2004
JACKSON Medicaid benefits have been restored to 50,884 people who had been cut from the health care plan.
Attorneys representing the Division of Medicaid and plaintiffs who sued to recover their benefits presented a consent decree agreement to U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate on Thursday. Wingate approved the consent decree and set a hearing for Feb. 3 to review what had been done by the state.
Mark Garriga, an attorney for Medicaid, said the decree restores benefits until Jan. 31, 2005. The decree affects beneficiaries in the Poverty Level Aged and Disabled category. It does not apply to the 17,000 PLADs who now receive Medicaid coverage through a federal waiver or those who applied for benefits after July 31, 2004.
Gov. Haley Barbour said the litigation had confused recipients. He said he would look to state lawmakers the majority of whom had approved the reforms to come up with the $100 million needed for Mississippi's cash-strapped Medicaid program if the transition does not go into effect.
Barbour said the new timetable would give lawmakers time to decide how to fund a Medicaid program that has more than doubled in cost in
five years; large deficits are projected during the upcoming fiscal year.
A lawsuit filed in federal court last month questioned the sufficiency of the original transition notification letter sent in June, and approved by the Attorney General's Office, and sought to indefinitely delay the transition.
Barbour said he was unsure where the Legislature would find the $100 million the PLAD transition would have saved, but that it would now be the responsibility of Medicaid reform opponents to identify the source.
Barbour said he will now focus the state's efforts on other parts of the Medicaid Reform Act. "We will now direct our energies toward making sure that the only people who receive Medicaid benefits are those who are truly eligible. Fighting fraud will save money for the truly needy," he said.
More than 768,000 Mississippians receive Medicaid services. PLAD recipients make up about 6 percent that Medicaid population. However, a Division of Medicaid analysis in September determined that 75 percent of the PLAD recipients would pay no more for drug costs on Medicare coverage than they would on Medicaid. This would leave only 12,000 recipients paying more, or 1.5 percent of Mississippi's total Medicaid population.
The main thrust of the suit challenged the state on grounds that it failed to provide proper notice of the termination of Medicaid benefits.
Attorney General Jim Hood, who had sought to intervene in the lawsuit, said he would monitor how Medicaid handles the situation.
I will attempt to go back to the table and explain what the law requires,'' Hood said. We'll see if they follow the law. It's my job to enforce the law.''
The law's passage set off a firestorm of protests as health care advocates complained that many people would be left without coverage, especially for prescription drugs.
Barbour said many PLAD participants would get comparable care under Medicare, which is wholly funded by the federal government.

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