Governor Says Medicaid Comes Up Short, He'll Veto Bills - - The News for South Mississippi

Governor Says Medicaid Comes Up Short, He'll Veto Bills

Gov. Ronnie Musgrove pledged Monday to veto two Medicaid bills, saying they leave the program with too little money to operate next fiscal year.

Legislative leaders are accusing the governor of running "a campaign of fear'' about the health coverage program for the needy, aged and disabled.

"Today, the governor's campaign of fear has escalated to an unacceptable level _ a level that is causing genuine, but unfounded, fears among nursing home residents and their families,'' Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck and House Speaker Tim Ford said in a memo Monday.

One bill Musgrove opposes is a Medicaid funding formula that he said leaves the health coverage program $120 million short of what it needs in the year starting July 1. Another is a Medicaid policy bill designed to trim some of the program's costs.

"The failure of the Legislature to fully fund Medicaid will force 13,000 Mississippians out of nursing homes and cut prescription drug benefits for thousands more,'' Musgrove said in a news release Monday. "We need to work on a solution now to prevent this from happening to our elderly, our disabled and our children. They deserve better.''

Because the federal government contributes $3 for every $1 Mississippi spends on Medicaid, a $120 million state funding shortfall would translate to a loss of $480 million in health care.

Lawmakers have already arranged to return to the Capitol this Friday to handle vetoes.

Ford and Tuck say there are enough votes in each chamber to get the two-thirds majority to override. They also say there's no reason to believe any nursing home residents will be evicted.

Pat Yates, administrator of Quitman County Nursing Home, said she was already upset with Tuck and other legislative leaders because a civil justice reform bill that nursing home operators wanted had died during the session. She said the dispute over Medicaid's budget worries her because all 60 beds in Quitman County Nursing Home are filled with Medicaid patients.

"I don't know where we're going, but if something doesn't give soon we're going to be in a mess,'' Yates said in a phone interview Monday. "You cannot keep the doors open with no money.''

The Medicaid cost-cutting bill would create a drug formulary _ a list, based on bids from companies, of the lowest-priced and most appropriate drugs. Patients would need special permission to use drugs not on the list.

Florida, Michigan, California and other states have cut Medicaid costs by using drug formularies.

Mississippi legislators say the state could save up to $60 million a year with the formulary.

Medicaid Executive Director Rica Lewis Payton says the Division of Medicaid has not crunched numbers to set a realistic expectation about potential savings.

Musgrove had said last Friday that he was leaning toward vetoing the Medicaid bills. He has until Tuesday to act.

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