OUR OPINION: Legislature stressed in the special session

By NEMS Daily Journal

Legislators failed on Thursday to complete work on Gov. Phil Bryant’s proposed reauthorization and funding of Medicaid, and Democrats lost a vote that would have prevented spending appropriated money until a straight-line vote on expanding Medicaid by 300,000 people is held.
Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said he does not consider the vote Thursday tied to another bill an up-or-down vote on expansion. The House, after two hours of emotional debate, managed to pass a reauthorization of the Medicaid program, set to expire June 30 before the new fiscal year begins July 1, and to pass an appropriation for the program, but which is short of full funding.
The Medicaid Reauthorization Bill passed the House, 93-23.
“We have passed a bill that only reauthorizes Medicaid,” said Speaker of the House Philip Gunn in a press release. “There is no repealer in this bill, because we believe that the days of playing politics with the lives of 700,000 Mississippians should end.”
Gunn pointedly failed to mention his playing politics in refusing to allow an up-or-down vote on expanding Medicaid to an additional 300,000 Mississippians, ostensibly on the grounds that the state can’t afford the expansion. Gunn and other top Republicans don’t want to be party to anything that could be perceived as assisting the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, that they oppose but are powerless to stop in its larger dimensions. There is certainly at least an equal amount of political posturing in that position as in the efforts of those who support the Medicaid expansion allowed under the act.
On a vote of 115-1 the House passed an $840 million state fund appropriation. It did not act on any other bills, some requiring a three-fifths approval, which some doubt Gunn can muster in the House.
The Senate has announced it will not act until the House has finished its business.
The bills were held on motions to reconsider, which means the Senate cannot immediately start working on them today.
Once those issues are cleared, Bryant is expected to seek the rest of the funding necessary to draw down billions in federal funds, which are essential monies needed to pay for Medicaid, which provides health insurance coverage for about 700,000 Mississippians who are poor, old and poor, single mothers and poor and disabled.
If the expansion were approved an additional 300,000 Mississippians, many of them working poor people who hold jobs but without employer-provided health coverage and without sufficient income to buy it on the retail market. These health costs many legislators like to ignore land squarely on institutional providers like hospitals, which must absorb them as uncompensated care.
We hope the Senate takes a broader, more compassionate and less political view of Medicaid.

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