Barbour Meets In Washington Federal Medicaid/Medicare Officials

Gov. Haley Barbour met Thursday with federal Medicaid and Medicare officials in Washington to discuss waivers to allow 18,000 Mississippi Medicaid recipients to remain in the program.

Lawmakers have urged the governor to call a special session to let 65,000 people stay on Medicaid or delay the date they would be removed from the program.

Barbour spokesman Pete Smith said Thursday there has been no decision about a special session. Smith said there's also been no word on Barbour's request for waivers.

"I appreciate the positive responses we are receiving from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,'' Barbour said in a statement. "I am comfortable that the waivers we are asking for will be granted.''

Letters have gone out to the thousands of poor, elderly and disabled people who are set to be cut off Medicaid on July 1. Medicaid is paid by state and federal dollars, and officials say Mississippi should save $41 million through changes in the program.

Barbour has said 60,000 of those losing Medicaid will be covered by the federal Medicare program. Many patients worry they won't have enough prescription drug coverage.

Barbour met privately with legislative leaders last week about possibly delaying the cuts until Oct. 1. But many lawmakers say they want to either delay the cuts until Dec. 31 or to restore all those scheduled to be cut off the program.

The state faces stiff financial penalties from the federal government if those now being removed from Medicaid - those between 100 percent and 135 percent of the federal poverty level who also qualify for Medicare - are still on Medicaid on Jan. 1, 2006. That's when Medicare is supposed to have an extensive prescription drug benefit.

Mississippi Medicaid director Warren Jones and other officials were to meet with federal officials again Friday.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)