@ JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi lawmakers worked Tuesday to try to pass a Medicaid budget after Gov. Haley Barbour expanded a special session agenda to let them fund the government health insurance program for the needy. Barbour allowed onsideration of the Medicaid budget on Tuesday - a day before the state's new fiscal year begins. Barbour did so only after the Mississippi Hospital Association conceded in a hard-knuckled political fight over the governor's plan to tax hospitals to help fund Medicaid.
Barbour said the hospital tax starts at $60 million a year and gradually increases to $90 million over the coming year and a half, as federal stimulus money disappears. Medicaid serves about one in four residents in the state. Health advocates have worried the program would stop serving the poor and disabled if the fiscal year starts without a budget.