Nearly 70 percent of the patients who use Dr. Don LaGrone's Gulf Coast Childrens Clinic are Medicaid recipients. They count on the state for access to basic medical care. Dr. LaGrone said that right now, those young patients are nothing more than pawns being used in an ugly political battle at the state capitol.
One of those patients had an appointment Wednesday morning. "Let's bring him up on the table. We'll take a quick look at him," the doctor told the infant's mother. Dr. LaGrone could treat the baby's illness. But he had no cure for what ailed Medicaid. "I'm not going to hold the children responsible for the ineptitude of the politicians," Dr. LaGrone said.
Last week, the state division of Medicaid sent out a letter. It said that as of February 28th, Medicaid would be out of money. So reimbursements to doctors would cease on that day. "It's a fairly transparent political ploy," the doctor said. "The letter to me is callous and cowardly. "It's essentially using the children, the most vulnerable and at risk children in our society, as political pawns to try to get doctors to force, put pressure on legislators to solve the dilemma."
The head of Medicaid said that wasn't the intent of the letter. Dr. Warren Jones told WLOX News he could sympathize with doctors like Don LaGrone "who feel like they're caught in the middle." Mississippi's Medicaid director believes in the final analysis that the funding will be provided.
Dr. LaGrone said it better be provided, because after February 28, his office will look just like it does now. "We don't intend to stop seeing the children that we take care of," he said.
Dr. Jones emphasized that his letter wasn't intended to harm patients or the providers who care for them. He simply wants people to be aware of the fiscal crisis facing Medicaid at the end of the month.