The Commercial Appeal

Miss. legislator­s approve Medicaid funding

But attempt to expand program fails

- By Phil West Special to Desoto Appeal

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.

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