Democrats ask governor to consider Medicaid options

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – House and Senate Democrats have both sent letters to Gov. Phil Bryant urging him to find areas to compromise on the expansion of Medicaid to cover those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level or about $15,000 annually.
The Republican governor has said he opposes expanding Medicaid as is allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act because of state finances.
The federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs and after that it will be stair-stepped down to 90 percent in 2020.
In a letter signed by 19 of the Senate’s 21 Democrats, the minority party said one option would be to adopt an Arkansas plan “which would use the federal money to subsidize health insurance premiums for the working poor without expanding Medicaid. We are willing to listen to any alternative you may suggest.”
In the House, Democratic Caucus Leader Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, suggested a trigger to enact an expansion if federal payments to hospitals are cut.
Mississippi hospitals currently receive more than $210 million annually in federal funds that cover the cost of about 40 percent of the uncompensated care they deliver. Under the federal law, those payments are supposed to be phased out under the assumption people would have coverage through the Affordable Care Act and hospitals would be treating far fewer people with no insurance.
Federal officials are expected to make a ruling this year on if and how those funds will be phased out.
The issue of re-authorization of Medicaid for the new fiscal year is currently caught up in the fight over the expansion. Currently, there is no legislation alive re-authorizing the health care agency, starting July 1.