EDITORIAL: Medicaid, Medicare

Worry and upheaval about Mississippi's imminent removal of 65,000 people from the state Medicaid health care program has its legislative epicenter in two Lee countians, Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, and Sen. Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo.

Both qualify as legislative experts in health and welfare issues.

As we have previously stated, health care quality for those whose primary coverage will be shifted to Medicare from Medicaid requires careful monitoring. The programs aren't identical and benefits differ. Quality and quantity of care overlap in the debate about the changes.

Nunnelee and Holland chair the committees dealing with public health issues.

It was their legislative craftsmanship that produced the bill, signed into law by Gov. Barbour.

Holland insists the issue should be immediately reopened. Nunnelee so far stands by the new law.

It is fair to ask how the bill could have received bipartisan support if the facts, as claimed by Holland and others, are the same now as during the session.

Holland signed the conference committee report with Nunnelee.

The Medicaid reductions become effective July 1, when the state's 2005 fiscal year begins.

Everyone agrees Medicaid and Medicare differ, but no broad, clear, documented information has developed about the degree – some say severity – of benefit changes former Medicaid patients can expect.

Pleas for continued Medicaid benefits by individuals paint a picture of health- care deprivation, and that is unacceptable.

Only a deeper understanding of what is taking place can provide information compelling enough to justify another special session, with the governor reopening the issue in the call.

Human Services
is essential

Reauthorization of the Department of Human Services is at least administratively related to the Medicaid-Medicare issue, but the department's functions are even broader.

The governor gave the special session dissolved Tuesday a chance to reauthorize Human Services, but the issue was complicated and ultimately killed by linking it in the House with the Medicaid-Medicare issue.

We hope the governor will call another special session to deal specifically with Human Services and work with the appropriate leadership in both chambers to speed it to passage.

Then, with Human Services fixed and sustained, an assessment of Medicaid-Medicare – involving the governor's office and both legislative houses – quickly can be undertaken.

The Legislature moves quickly when the need is compelling. It opened the state for the Nissan plant in a matter of days, starting from scratch.

It can act as quickly or quicker in the Medicaid issue if the body of evidence is compellingly presented so that Gov. Barbour revisits the issue.

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