Still Some Hope For Thousands Losing Medicaid

Some state lawmakers are holding on to hope that there will be help for thousands of Mississippians about to lose their health benefits. July first, about 65,000 people will be purged from the Medicaid rolls. Although most will immediately qualify for federal Medicare benefits, that doesn't include prescription drug coverage.

John Read has two ways of looking at Medicaid. He has a role as a state representative who knows the strain the state is under to compensate for federal funding set to dry up in two years. He's also a pharmacist who sees the hardship cutting health benefits will cause.

"It's gonna hurt every pharmacy in the state of Mississippi because these people do use a lot of Medicine," said Rep. Read. "I'm all for helping these people. The situation as is, is something that was kind of forced on us to act and we're just trying to make the best of a bad situation."

With prescription bottles in hand, Medicaid patients took their cause to Jackson this week. Lawmakers who are against the cuts say if that message fell of deaf ears then thousands of poor, elderly and disabled will fall through the cracks.

Rep. Billy Broomfield of Moss Point said, "Once they finish making phone calls and sending letters to the Governor and appealing to his heart, wherever that may be... I think he will call us back and hopefully we'll accept that language to protect those people."

Rep. Read would like to see the state cushion the blow for people who can't afford their medicines.

"The Medicaid budget is a $3 billion budget in Mississippi and I feel that they can shake lose $20 million or $30 million to help ease these people from Medicaid to Medicare without legislation. I think they could do it in house and we're all asking them to do that."

Whether the state shifts that money to help people losing Medicaid will be up to the governor.

Both Representatives Billy Broomfield and John Read feel certain there will be another special session called soon. Broomfield and Read say allowing the Department of Human Services to shut down is not an option.