State Legislature Approves Medicaid Cuts

The Mississippi Senate and House on Friday adopted a compromise plan to save money in the Medicaid program with a series of program reductions.

The curtailing services and reductions in reimbursements to doctors and pharmacists who participate in Medicaid are to save $60 million to $70 million a year and help bail Medicaid out of financial turmoil.

The compromise now goes to Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.

Medicaid officials fear they will run out of money next week, leaving the 650,000-plus recipients with no medical help. Lawmakers were trying to reach a quick compromise.

The Medicaid program is running a deficit of $158 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30.

The compromise includes a 5 percent reduction in state-paid fees to doctors and hospitals. The bill also takes millions of dollars from a tobacco trust fund this year and next, with a provision that the money be repaid in more robust economic times.

The conferees agreed to increase the $2 per bed now paid by nursing homes to $3 per bed. That would bring in about $6.7 million, said Medicaid executive director Rica Lewis Payton.

Nursing homes would not be cut the 5 percent. Medicaid is a federal-state health care plan for the needy, aged, blind and disabled.

Here's a glance at some proposed Medicaid changes in a compromise bill approved Friday by the House and Senate:

  • Five percent cut in the rate Mississippi pays doctors and other Medicaid providers, except nursing homes. The rate cut would not apply to the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
  • Recipients to receive one new pair of glasses every five years instead of every three years.
  • Seven prescriptions per Medicaid recipient per month instead of the 10 per month now allowed. After five prescriptions, a recipient would need approval to receive more.
  • Co-payment increases on all Medicaid services where allowed, generally up to $3 each. For example, prescription drug co-payment goes from $1 to $3.
  • Recipients to receive a 34-day supply of each prescription refill instead of the 90-day supply now allowed. Officials say this is aimed at reducing waste of unused drugs.
  • Nursing homes return sealed prescription drugs that are not needed.
  • Pharmacists' dispensing fee reduced from the current $4.91 per prescription to $3.91 per prescription.
  • If generic drugs are available, reimburse the pharmacy only the cost of the generic even if a prescription is filled with a comparable brand-name drug.
  • Assessment on nursing beds increase from $2 to $3 per bed.