By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The requirement that people apply for Medicaid and make their annual recertification during face-to-face meetings was pushed through by former Gov. Haley Barbour during his first term.
The face-to-face requirement for Mississippi Medicaid recipients will be prohibited starting in January 2014 under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Ed Sivak, executive director of the Mississippi Economic Policy Center, said the state is the only one requiring the face-to-face visits to sign up or to recertify children. Six states, he said, based on a Kaiser Family Foundation study, require the face-to-face visits either to sign up or to recertify adults.
In developing the policy, Barbour said the practice helped eliminate fraud by making it more difficult for people who were not eligible for the program to get on the Medicaid rolls.
“Requiring face-to-face meetings to check a recipient’s eligibility has reduced fraud and improved the efficiency of Mississippi’s Medicaid program,” Barbour said at one point during his eight-year tenure that ran from 2004 until 2012.
But health advocacy groups and many Democratic legislators disagreed with the Republican governor.
“It has been a hoax from the beginning designed to keep some poor soul off Medicaid,” said Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville.
Various health advocacy groups said the face-to-face certification did not eliminate fraud any more than mail-in certification for Medicaid.