The Commercial Appeal
Miss. legislators approve Medicaid funding
But attempt to expand program fails
JACKSON — State senators approved Friday funding Mississippi’s Medicaid program but killed the prospect of expanding it to include 300,000 working poor citizens.
By a 30-19 vote, largely along party lines, senators defeated an amendment to Medicaid re- authorization legislation that would have expanded the state’s Medicaid program from 642,000 enrollees as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Republicans have characterized a vote in favor of expanding Medicaid as an endorsement of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, often called Obamacare.
After the expansion amend- ment failed, senators approved the traditional Medicaid funding bill with no dissenting votes.
“After good, lengthy debate, the Senate reauthorized and funded Medicaid without expanding under Obamacare, just as they did in the regular session,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, the Senate’s presiding officer, said in a statement after the votes were taken.
Earlier in the day, senators approved Medicaid reauthorization with only two “no” votes.
The votes mean that Democrats failed in the House and Senate to expand the federalstate health care program to include working Mississippians who don’t earn enough money to afford private insurance but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.
Legislators deadlocked over expansion during their regular session that ended in April with no agreement on reauthorizing Medicaid or funding the program past the current fiscal year that ends at midnight Sunday.
Gov. Phil Bryant called legislators into a special session Thursday and limited the call to only reauthorizing Medicaid and determining how to pay for it.
House members, with only one dissenting vote, sent the Senate legislation reauthorizing Medicaid for the 2014 fiscal year that begins at 12:01 a.m. Monday.
The reauthorization bill and its funding measure were held
overnight on a parliamentary move that opponents used in an attempt to gain support and change the vote’s outcome. But that move failed, and the legislation went to the Senate first thing Friday.
Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Public Health and Welfare Committee approved the bills with little discussion.
Legislation that House members approved keeps the traditional Medicaid program despite determined efforts by Democrats to expand it.
The bills senators considered Friday include $5.23 billion — only about $822 million of that is state tax dollars — to pay for the program.
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.