Medicaid Recipients Worry About Losing Services - - The News for South Mississippi

Medicaid Recipients Worry About Losing Services

To help Nathan Siefert, 16, deal with his Cystic Fibrosis, he wears this vest three times a day to clear his lungs. When you add in the 14 different medications he takes every day, his monthly health care cost rises to more than $2,000.

"Without Medicaid, I wouldn't be able to take care of my son," his mother, Lorie Siefert said. "I probably wouldn't have him and that's how critical it is."

Siefert can't understand why legislators have allowed Medicaid to go bankrupt. She's worried about what will happen if they don't solve the problem soon.

"This is mad to me," Siefert said. "It's crazy."

But State Representative Frances Fredericks says poor Mississippians should not be worried.

"We don't want people to panic and think their services are cut off now because once this bill is in place, all of those providers will be paid," Rep. Fredericks said. "We're not going to do that. We will not leave people hanging out there."

The number of Mississippians on Medicaid jumped 20 percent in the last year, and that's part of the reason Medicaid is now bankrupt. Legislators plan to use $108 million from the tobacco trust fund, but that alone won't save the program. The disagreement among legislators is about what else to cut.

"And you don't really want to cut a lot of the services because those services are so needed," Rep. Fredericks said. "So, it's going to have to be a share. We're going to have to share, the consumer's going to have to share a little bit and so will the providers."

As legislators go back to work Monday to tackle the problem, Lorie Siefert says she'll be sitting by, anxiously awaiting word about whether she'll be able to get the drugs and care her son needs to stay alive.

Mississippi Health Care providers are also hoping legislators fix the Medicaid problem soon. Pharmacists, doctors and nursing homes haven't been getting paid for their services since February 21st. Once legislators pass a bill, those bills will be paid. One Biloxi pharmacist we talked to said he is still filling Medicaid prescriptions, but he doesn't know how much longer he'll be able to do that.

"There's absolutely no way that my business, a small business can continue to fill these things without knowing I'm going to be reimbursed for these," Woody Gamble said.

The Mississippi House of Representatives passed  HB1200 on Friday, but it failed in the Senate. Senators we talked to say, a similar bill will likely pass, once the details are worked out.

Besides the money from the tobacco trust fund, the bill says nursing homes would have to pay the state another dollar a day for every bed in its facility. It would also reduce payments to doctors for office visits. And it would put a cap on the number of prescriptions and doctor visits allowed. Those are just some of the cost-saving proposals.

By Amanda Jones

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