By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The 2011 Legislature, facing what is expected to be a bruising budget battle, will have an additional $40 million to $50 million in surplus Medicaid funds to spend, Gov. Haley Barbour announced Wednesday.
The Division of Medicaid, said Barbour, will not spend all of the $771 million in state and federal funds appropriated to it during the 2010 session.
“I am just learning about the surplus,” said Senate Appropriations Chair Doug Davis, R-Hernando. “We have to find out how much is there. But right now it is good news.”
The Legislature, which opened Tuesday, faces the difficult chore of having to replace about $700 million in one-time funds, primarily federal stimulus dollars, that were used to pay for recurring expenses last year.
Medicaid is a federal-state program that provides health care to more than 600,000 elderly, disabled and poor pregnant women and children.
In a statement, Barbour said the surplus “could be higher, but I strongly recommend the Legislature be cautious when estimating this number.”
He added, “Congratulations to our team at the Division of Medicaid for the strong management and excellent controls they are employing in operating this large, complicated program.”
Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, a key member of the House Appropriations leadership, said the additional funds would help, but he added he hopes the surplus was not achieved at the expense of those who needed coverage.
“If we got it by throwing people off the program who should be on it,” said Brown, “that’s not a good thing.”
In recent months, numerous advocacy groups, especially those representing disabled children, have complained to legislators that the Division of Medicaid is denying coverage contrary to federal law.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.