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Come together to pass Medicaid bills

Earlier in the 2013 session, on Jan. 31 and again on Feb. 15, the Democrats in the Mississippi House of Representatives voted against the reauthorization of the Division of Medicaid, which is scheduled to expire on June 30.

On Sunday, March 31 and on Monday, April 1, the Democrats again voted to kill the Medicaid program by voting against the $5.39 billion appropriation that would fund Medicaid in our state for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

They stated their reason for voting against Medicaid was that they wanted to expand Medicaid for the adult population age 21 through 65 who earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). This is an option under the federal Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare.

This is an understandable goal for the Democratic party, but the simple fact is they are choosing to sacrifice the existing Medicaid program which serves children, aged, blind and disabled, nursing home patients and various other Medicaid programs to make a political statement.

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we will already add upwards of 90,000 more Mississippians to Medicaid, just by adhering to its mandates. This will increase the total enrollment in our state to around 730,000 persons and another 70,000 children in the CHIPS program.

Many of us believe that we need much more information from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services before taking on upward to 300,000 more adults to our Medicaid program.

The 100 percent match money promised for the first three years is appealing, but the long-term projection is that costs would far exceed initial benefits in the out years. Without the new ACA mandates, state dollar contributions to our Medicaid program has increased by $288 million since 2009.

The budget that we presented was nearly $850 million and was about $90 million short of what the division requested. This amount included $32 million to pay for the new Federal ACA mandates.

We need time to study the effects of expanding Medicaid to 300,000 additional adults from age 21 to 65 in our state.

There are issues related to funding for our hospitals and nursing homes, but no one is certain of exactly how much money is involved. As Chairman of Medicaid, I receive new information weekly that should be considered as we try to make sound decisions about our Medicaid program.  There is simply no logical reason that we should put our Medicaid program in jeopardy with these political antics.

The Division of Medicaid is required by law to give written notice to beneficiaries and providers prior to any changes in the program. Those letters will be mailed soon, and it is a shame that the Democratic members of the House of Representatives are willing to put our most vulnerable citizens through this anguish and uncertainty.

We should come together and pass the existing Medicaid reauthorization and funding package so that our current enrollees don’t have to wring their hands in worry for the next three months. This is not the way to treat our most vulnerable population.

 

Rep. Bobby B. Howell (R-Kilmichael)

Chairman, Mississippi House Medicaid Committee