Hood: Governor can't operate Medicaid by executive order - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Hood: Governor can't operate Medicaid by executive order

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Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood says the governor can't operate the Division of Medicaid by executive order. Hood issued his opinion Wednesday, which contradicts claims by Governor Phil Bryant.

Hood's opinion is nonbinding, but can provide guidance for state leaders.

When lawmakers ended their session April, they didn't reauthorize the Medicaid program or fund it. And lurking in the background is the issue of Medicaid expansion. The governor and most Republicans are against it; most Democrats are for it.

As it stands right now, Medicaid, which provides 640,000 Mississippians with healthcare, won't legally exist after June 30. It also won't have any money to operate because no budget has been approved. Both of these things will require a special session of the legislature, which only the Governor can call.

Two other governors, Haley Barbour and Kirk Fordice, have tried to run executive branch departments in similar situations.

In 1994, the legislature refused to reauthorize the Department of Human Services in a dispute with the Governor Fordice over privatizing the child support collections. Fordice decided to run the department himself and did for a time before the dispute was settled.

In 2004, Governor Barbour ran DHS under executive order for a short time. Attorney General Jim Hood also was able to get a court order chancery court allowing that arrangement.

However, in both those cases, the legislature had approved a Department of Human Services budget.

The next step is up to the governor. He can call a special session to deal with the Medicaid issues, or simply ignore the Attorney General's opinion; which would probably get things into court very quickly.

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