OUR OPINION: Narrow special session called for Medicaid vote

By NEMS Daily Journal

Gov. Phil Bryant, as widely expected, on Monday called a special legislative session to deal with Medicaid funding and reauthorization before it goes out of business after midnight Sunday because it has no money or standing in law.
Legislators are called to convene at 10 a.m. Thursday, less than four days before the June 30 deadline.
The agency that provides health care to 644,000 Mississippians is set to expire on July 1 unless the Legislature acts.
Medicaid is the nation’s public health insurance program for low-income people, covering more than 62 million Americans. Medicaid beneficiaries include pregnant women, children and families, individuals with disabilities, and poor Medicare beneficiaries. In addition, Medicaid is the main source of coverage and financing for long-term care, including both nursing home and community-based long-term services, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports on its health care website.
The 2013 session ended without Medicaid reauthorization or funding because of a sharp split, largely along partisan lines, about expanding Medicaid to additional Mississippians who would become eligible under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, a chief target of key Republicans like Bryant.
A subplot in that drama centers around key health care providers like the state’s hospitals who view Medicaid expansion as a link to continued solvency because it would provide some coverage for what would otherwise be uncompensated care, a drain on cash and other financial resources.
The Senate voted to fund and reauthorize but not expand. The House tied itself in knots when Speaker Philip Gunn refused to allow a vote on expansion and Democrats blocked other necessary votes.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, said on Monday: “… I support extending the agency for one year to study ways to reform the program, improve care and find efficiencies to save money. Earlier this year, the Senate reauthorized and funded Medicaid without expansion in a bipartisan vote. Unfortunately, the bill died in the House. I stand ready to pass similar bills in the special session, just like we did with the economic incentives in the Yokohama special session.”
A one-year reauthorization is less than the normal multi-year commitment, and an examination of the law to improve care and find efficiencies leaves room for discussions.
We hope so, because 20 percent of Mississippians fall under the Medicaid program, but additional people have no protective umbrella and need one.