The Commercial Appeal

House reauthoriz­es Medicaid, no expansion

Program to continue if Senate OKS

- By Phil West Special to Desoto Appeal

JACKSON — Mississipp­i will keep its traditiona­l Medicaid program under legislatio­n House members approved Thursday.

Republican­s opposed to expanding the program to 300,000 additional Mississipp­ians, as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act, beat back three Democrat-led attempts at amending the Medicaid reauthoriz­ation bill to include the work- ing poor who are unable to afford private health insurance.

Later in the day, Republican­s again prevailed when members approved a $5.23 billion — about $822 million of that is state tax dollars — funding bill to pay for the federal-state health care program in the new fiscal year that begins at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The federal government provides 73.4 cents of every Medicaid dollar in Mississipp­i, and state taxpayers provide the rest.

House members approved the Medicaid-authorizin­g legislatio­n on a 93-23 vote, and they approved the funding on a vote of 116-1.

Each measure was held in the House for one day on a parliament­ary move, which members usually request when they are angry over a bill’s outcome or they try to change enough minds to change the outcome.

That means the Senate, which is expected to rubber stamp the House bills, has to wait until Friday to take up the legislatio­n.

The special legislativ­e session could have ended after just one day.

“I commend House members for their prudent work today on funding and reauthoriz­ing the Division of Medicaid,” House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said in a statement issued after the afternoon vote.

“We hope our counterpar­ts in the Senate pass these clean bills so we can continue medical coverage for those currently on the Medicaid program.”

Democrats argued that Medicaid expansion, aimed at providing health insurance for the working poor, also would let people earning up to $88,000 a year receive credit for half of their insurance premiums.

“That’s a vote that will be hard to explain to people — just based on where they live and are buying insurance, why they now cannot get credit from the federal program that’s going to be in place Oct. 1,” said Rep. Bobby Moak of Bogue Chitto, the House Democratic leader.

“Now, you will not be able to get that tax credit.”

State legislator­s adjourned in April without reauthoriz­ing Medicaid or the money to fund the state’s share.

With the state’s 2013 f iscal year ending on June 30, Gov. Phil Bryant called legislator­s into a special session to deal only with Medicaid and its funding.

While approving Medicaid renewal and its funding, House members did not address one part of the program’s funding, a state tax on hospitals that issued to attract federal money on a 3-to-1 match.

The hospital bed tax and a similar nursing home bed tax are expected to generate about $204 million, which attracts more than $600 million in federal Medicaid funding.

The state’s Medicaid program covers about 642,000 Mississipp­ians and would expire at mid- night Sunday without some legislativ­e action.

Senators have to approve the House bills, and Bryant has to sign the bills into law before they take effect Monday.

Bryant, Gunn and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Senate’s presiding officer, have said they wanted to extend the traditiona­l Medicaid program and reject extending it to 300,000 state residents.

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