Medicaid funding, reauthorization bills head to governor

By Bobby Harrison/Daily Journal

JACKSON — Bills authorizing and funding the Division of Medicaid have passed by both chambers of the Legislature without the expansion provision supported by House and Senate Democrats.

Today the Senate approved the bills that were passed on Thursday – the opening of the special session – by the House. Senate Democrats today offered an amendment that would prevent the program from being funded until Medicaid was expanded to cover those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,000 per year, as is allowed by federal law.

The amendment failed on a straight party line vote with 19 Democrats voting yes and 30 Republicans voting no.

The Republican leadership of the state has blocked efforts to expand Medicaid to cover 300,000 Mississippians, who have been identified as primarily the working poor, because they have said it would be too expensive. Democrats argue that the federal government would pay most of the costs – including 100 percent during the first three years, starting in January.

Funding and re-authorization for the program would have expired on Monday – the first day of the new fiscal year –without the new legislation that has now passed both chambers.

With funding and re-authorization in place, legislators are waiting to see if Gov. Phil Bryant expands the agenda of the special session to include what is known as a Medicaid technical amendments bill, which includes taxes on health care providers to help run Medicaid.

It will take a three-fifths vote to pass the revenue bill. Democrats would have the votes to block its passage, in an effort to try to force a compromise on expansion, if they voted together to do so,

The current Medicaid program covers about 644,000 elderly, disabled, poor pregnant women and poor children.