Letters to the Editor

House makes major moves on Medicaid
For the past 18 months, I’ve generally supported Gov. Haley Barbour’s position on assessing hospitals to fund Medicaid. Now we have won, but the governor won’t declare victory.
The leadership of the House of Representatives — which opposed any assessment – now has agreed to a $60 million assessment which could go as high as $90 million. The governor’s outright rejection of this proposal is mystifying, particularly since his Medicaid division is notifying doctors, hospitals and others that there may not be money to pay their bills, and particularly since this problem is the key to having a state budget.
The governor should act responsibly. He should come to the table, offer whatever adjustments he has in mind, and help us get a budget. Instead, he just said “no”.
Here’s a summary of the proposal and the positions of the House and the governor:
* The House was opposed to any assessment on hospitals over the current amount. The governor wanted to increase this assessment by $90 million. Until a week ago, the House insisted that no matter what, they would never agree to an assessment of more than $57 million. The proposal is for a $60 million assessment which will gradually increase to $90 million.
* The governor wanted to institute a type of managed care. This proposal is anathema to the House, and they have voted to prohibit it. The proposal specifically authorizes the program.
* The governor wants to change the way hospitals are paid to a DRG system (Diagnostic Related Groups). The House has opposed this change. The proposal specifically authorizes the program. (The specific authorization for these two programs is significant. Without it, there would at least be a plausible legal argument that the governor can’t implement them.)
* On the other hand, the governor has cut hospital reimbursements or proposes to cut it at a cost of about $15 million. The bill restores or prohibits those cuts.
* Also, the proposal says that if the governor has to cut the Medicaid program, he can’t cut hospitals and nursing homes, because those groups are paying assessments. He would have to cut those providers who aren’t paying assessments.
Unfortunately, the governor has chosen to reject the proposal because of that last provision. He says it would keep him from making any cuts to the Medicaid program, which is inaccurate.
Until recently, I’ve thought the House and the governor were both being obstinate. Now, the House has made a dramatic move toward the governor’s position. They aren’t asking him to meet them halfway, but they are asking that he at least open the door and walk out on the porch.
Sen. Hob Bryan (D), Chairman
Public Health Committee
Denial of DNA testing debases Justice Roberts
I read with disbelief the story in the June 19 Journal, “High Court denies right to DNA test for convicts”.
The story involves William Osborne, convicted of assault and imprisoned 16 years ago. When the State of Alaska refused his right to have DNA evidence from the assault tested, he appealed. A federal appeals court affirmed his right to have the test done but, incredibly, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled and said Osborne had no right to demand testing of evidence that could prove his innocence. Chief Justice John Roberts said, apparently with a straight face, “New technology that was not available at trial should not throw fairly won convictions into doubt.” In other words, we convicted you fair and square, therefore you have no right to continue to try to prove your innocence. Once guilty, always guilty.
Roberts conveniently glosses over the fact that all but three states now allow appeals based on DNA evidence, stating flippantly that Osborne can file his appeal whenever Alaska gets around to changing its laws (“No need to finish the job already started by the States”). He could have reasoned that since practically all states have made such changes, the Court could finish the job.
If there was ever any doubts that Republicans care not a whit for individuals, this should lay them to rest. According to Roberts, the system is more important than the individual. He agrees that Osborne’s rights are inconsequential compared to the writ of law.
John Roberts and others of his ilk should be consigned to the garbage dump of history. Thank God we elected Obama, who will appoint people like Sotomayor to the high court – someone who stands for the rights of common folk, like you and me.
Jerry Mathis
Home health cuts harm elderly Mississippians
Elderly Mississippians and their families should be aware that their lives could be seriously affected by President Obama’s current plan to cut $34 billion from Medicare home health services over the next decade. These reductions would come even after Mississippi State’s landmark study citing the need for greater resources to deal with elderly issues, such as increasing illness and disability. It’s clear that our older citizens are likely to develop one or more chronic health conditions and will need more care, not less.
Advanced home health treatments are already keeping elderly state residents and other older Americans out of far more costly hospitals and other institutions, with the potential to save Medicare billions of dollars. Thus, home care is a solution for improving care and controlling costs, especially when one realizes that Medicare pays about $4,600 for a single hospital day versus $2,200 for a 60-day episode of home care.
As a home health professional, I want to encourage Mississippians and their families to contact Rep. Travis Childers and Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker to let them know we are opposed to these cuts and that we expect them to preserve home health.
Joey Spearman
Democrats, take a breath before grasping for more
Have you ever heard the expression “Take a breath”?
One of our good friends can talk the stripes off a zebra. Occasionally when she gets really wound up you have to say, “Judy, take a breath.” Of course the intent is to get her to slow down and give somebody else a chance to get a word in edgewise. But it can also mean to step back and reassess the situation before plunging ahead into the unknown.
That’s the way conservatives are starting to feel about President Obama and the liberal Democratic Congress: Take a breath.
Now the president is proposing to control the medical industry that affects 100 per cent of the U.S. population and about 20 per cent of the national GDP. And before the 24-hour news cycle could digest the medical issue, the president proposes the need for the government to protect us from ourselves with control over the investments we can or can’t make. The president needs to take a breath.
How about letting a few proposals have a small chance to take effect before we continue to drive the country to the brink of insolvency? How about waiting to see what the intended and unintended consequences of all the grandiose proposals are before we run off into a minefield of new and unforeseen problems? How about stepping back and reassessing the situation? How about ending the insanity of ever thinking the federal government is able to run the auto, financial, medical, education and energy industries of the United Sates of America?
As of July 1, the Democrats controlled White House, Senate and House and will have been in power for six months not counting the two years of congressional control prior to that. The economic condition of the country, the movement of the country toward a socialist agenda, our military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the worsening of conditions in Iran and our standing with the world community are now all their responsibility. Stop blaming President Bush for all the problems. Wake up and reassess the country and Democratic priorities. In a word, take a breath.
Richard Warriner

NEMS Daily Journal

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