South Mississippi Lawmakers Speak Out On Special Session - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

06/25/04

South Mississippi Lawmakers Speak Out On Special Session

Five days and counting now until 65-thousand Mississippians lose their Medicaid coverage.

Governor Haley Barbour met this week with federal healthcare officials in Washington asking for waivers to allow some of those Medicaid recipients to remain in the program.

Over the past few days, several state lawmakers have urged the governor to call a special session to reverse their earlier vote or, at least, delay the Medicaid changes from going into effect for a few months.

Friday we spoke to three South Mississippi lawmakers about the changes and the possibility of a special session.

Thousands of Medicaid recipients say they're panicked by the thought of being dropped from the state's healthcare program.

So, during Friday's taping of WLOX News This Week, we asked two state legislators, who voted against the cuts, if they think the Governor will call a special session for a vote to delay the changes or to reverse the cuts.

"I'm not going say that I believe he will, things have happened very strangely with this governor, I hope that the governor will," said State Representative Frances Fredricks.

State Senator Debra Dawkins says if a special session is called, her vote against the cuts won't budge one bit.

"I am completely grounded in my vote and I'm not about to change my mind," said Senator Dawkins.

However, State Representative Jim Simpson, who watched the show, says he sees things a little differently.

"I frankly don't think we are going to have one. WHY? The governor has offered to compromise on several occasions on all of these issues, it's the house of representatives that won't. so there's nobody to compromise with, so what's the point of going back?" said Representative Simpson.

During the taping, Host Doug Walker pointed out that eight months ago, the Governor was very clear during his campaign that he would put Medicaid recipients on the federal Medicare plan to try and balance the troubled budget.

"So people heard but they didn't listen to that part, I didn't believe he would cut medicaid off like this, I just wouldn't believe it," said Walker.

(Simpson) "You know what's funny is the house of representatives voted to do this, the governor didn't do it unilaterally. We did it Rebecca, at a time when we were dividing up state dollars," said Representative Simpson said.

Simpson also says some very cold hard facts forced them make some extremely tough choices.

No one wanted higher taxes, everyone wanted to increase education and crime prevention and Mississippi is the poorest state with the very best medical benefits.

"Mississippi is the only state in the country that has this program and the really bitter, difficult truth is, we can't afford it," said Simpson.

This next statistic might shock you.

Simpson says, one out of three Mississippians is covered by Medicaid.

"This is something that the federal government is making us stop in a year anyway, so if we can find the drug programs and the waivers to cover these five thousand people that we're talking about , it's a good time to do it," said Simpson.

Although 65-thousand people are being dropped from the state's Medicaid program, lawmakers say it should only leave five thousand people without prescription benefits.

Those are the people the Governor's office says he's trying to get waivers for from Washington.

By: Rebecca Powers

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