By Bill Crawford
The dictionary defines “tyranny” as oppressive power exerted by government.
Founder Thomas Jefferson warned “Experience hath shown, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
Is a taint of tyranny infecting our Medicaid standoff?
Compare the Senate’s actions with those of the House and the governor.
Medicaid must be reauthorized this year. A bill to do so was introduced in the Mississippi Senate. It included a section that could be amended to allow Medicaid expansion as envisioned by Obamacare. Sen. John Horhn’s amendment to expand Medicaid was defeated in committee. The full Senate passed the reauthorization bill 50 – 0. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves sent the bill to the House for consideration. No big deal.
A Medicaid reauthorization bill was introduced in the House. It did not include the section that could allow Medicaid expansion. When Speaker Philip Gunn stifled debate on expansion, House Democrats blocked reauthorization.
The Senate bill that included the amendable section arrived at the House. Gunn killed it along with the last chance to reauthorize Medicaid.
Denied the right to even debate Medicaid expansion, House Democrats then derailed funding for Medicaid. As a result, the Legislature adjourned with reauthorizing or funding Medicaid. The program will end June 30 unless Gov. Phil Bryant calls a special legislative session and something gets passed.
Now comes the governor saying he will not call a special session unless Democrats agree in advance to reauthorize and fund Medicaid as he wants it.
Instead, he told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, he will personally take over the agency and run it without a legislative reauthorization or appropriation of matching funds.
“As head of the Governor’s Division of Medicaid, I will do all I can to continue to provide Medicaid to the citizens who qualify in the state of Mississippi,” said Bryant. “That is my legal argument. If someone wants to challenge me in court, what is their argument?”
There has been no indication that either the House or Senate has votes enough to pass Medicaid expansion if given the chance. Neither body could overturn a certain gubernatorial veto.
Why, then, the heavy hand oppressing House Democrats’ desire to debate the issue and the governor’s overt threat to take over Medicaid?
Earlier the governor single-handedly killed the state insurance exchange developed by Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney that would have helped the uninsured gain coverage. Former Gov. Haley Barbour thought state controlled exchanges were good government.
Resistance to Medicaid expansion and Obamacare is one thing. Power plays that oppress free and open debate and good government are quite another, and display a taint liberty resists.
Founder Ben Franklin told us, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.”
BILL CRAWFORD (Crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.