By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – No legislation is alive to re-authorize the state Medicaid program after June 30.
On Friday, the House Democratic minority successfully prevented the revival of a House bill that would have extended Medicaid past June 30. The vote was 60-52 in favoring of extending the program, but since the bill includes taxes it required a three-fifths majority or 68 votes to pass.
And on Thursday, the Republican-dominated House Rules Committee killed a Senate proposal that would have reauthorized the state-federal program that provides health care to about 640,000 disabled, poor pregnant women, poor children and segments of the elderly population.
“Now it is in the hands of the governor,” said House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, after Friday’s vote.
Gunn, R-Clinton, said Gov. Phil Bryant can try to run the agency through executive order or call a special session to deal with the reauthorization. The other option, reviving the House or Senate reauthorization bills, would take a two-thirds majority of both chambers.
At issue is the expansion of Medicaid allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act. House Democrats want a floor vote on the expansion to cover those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level or about $15,000 per year.
The House bill excluded the section of the law that could be amended to allow for the expansion. The Senate reauthorization bill included that section.
Gunn said he took the extraordinary step of sending the Senate bill to the Rules Committee to be killed because he does not want the House to vote on the expansion. Normally the bill would be sent to the House Medicaid Committee.
Gunn said he does not want a vote because it would not pass the House Republican majority and because he opposes it. He said the position of the House Democrats “is not a realistic position. I think they are playing politics and we are dealing with reality.”
He and Bryant have consistently said the state cannot afford the expansion.
House Democrats say they just want an open debate on a proposal that would provide health care to about 300,000 Mississippians – primarily the working poor – and have a positive economic impact.
Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, asked on the House floor Friday, “Why are we being denied the opportunity to let the process work? The Medicaid Committee and the floor of the House, the people’s House, is the place for discussion.”
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate, said after the House action, “The Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to reauthorize the division without expanding Medicaid. We were sent to Jackson to do a job, and that sometimes means making tough decisions. It’s still early in the process, and I expect us to complete our responsibility prior to the end of session.”