Lawmakers Still Wrestling With Medicaid Bill, Bankruptcy Approaching - - The News for South Mississippi

Lawmakers Still Wrestling With Medicaid Bill, Bankruptcy Approaching

Lawmakers are in a quandary over where they can go with a Medicaid bailout that will satisfy critics.

The Senate failed Monday to release a Medicaid compromise to the governor. Senators voted instead to send the bill back for more work in conference.

House Public Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Bobby Moody on Tuesday got approval from the House to go back for more talks. Moody, D-Louisville, said he would expect a proposal from Senate negotiators that they thought could be passed in the Senate.

Time to reach a compromise is tight because officials say Mississippi Medicaid could be broke by the end of this week. The program is running a $158 million deficit in the budget year that ends June 30.

"There are always some other things we can do. I haven't talked with them (senators) enough to know what they feel were the specifics about what got the bill recommitted on them,'' Moody said.

Sen. Robert "Bunky'' Huggins, R-Greenwood, chairman of the Public Health and Welfare Committee, said negotiators were back to square one.

"Anything we do is going to make somebody mad,'' Huggins said.

Huggins said senators did not like the services that were being curtailed and the reductions in reimbursements to doctors and other Medicaid providers in the bill. Huggins said he was unsure how a system of fees on providers, something rejected last week by Senate negotiators, would be received.

Medicaid is a federal-state program that provides health coverage for the needy, aged, blind and disabled. About 650,000 of Mississippi's 2.8 million residents rely on the program.

The fees proposed by the House would have affected every medical provider, not just those seeing Medicaid patients.

Moody said federal law would not allow lawmakers to target specific medical providers for the fees. The fee ran into strong opposition from doctors and pharmacists.

Huggins said the fee proposal and anything else would be back on the table once negotiations resume.

The bill is House Bill 1200.

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