Lawmakers: More work up to Gov.

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Lincoln County lawmakers said the ball is in Gov. HaleyBarbour’s court on whether to bring the legislature back to Jacksonto address reauthorization of the Department of Human Services andthe fate of some Medicaid recipients.

“It’s over for now,” said Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett. “We’llhave to go back between now and July 1.”

With failures in the regular and special sessions to reauthorizeDHS for another year, that agency is scheduled to expire June 30.Members of the House and the governor’s office have also been atodds of the fate of 65,000 Medicaid recipients who are to betransferred to the federal Medicare program due to budgetconcerns.

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The House adjourned Tuesday after the state Supreme Court upheldthe governor’s authority to dissolve the special session. TheSenate had gone home Friday.

Dist. 53 Rep. Bobby Moak said the next legal issue is whether toseek a rehearing before the court on its Tuesday ruling. If thathappens and is successful, he said the House could be back insession.

“I hope that it happens,” Moak said. “I’m committed to doingthis. We’re going to have to address the needs of these 65,000folks.”

Barnett said the House had passed a measure to ensure that therecipients are not removed from Medicaid coverage. However, theSenate has not ruled on the issue and would have to return to doso.

“They can’t come back until he (the governor) calls them back,”Barnett said. “The ball is really in his court.”

Dist. 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith was unavailable for comment onTuesday’s activities.

Barnett and Moak are members of the House Health and HumanServices Committee. Following Tuesday’s adjournment, Moak said thecommittee met and heard from about 100 Medicaid recipients.

“We simply cannot leave them hanging,” Moak said. “I don’t seehow we could in good conscience do that.”

Moak said many in the targeted class of Medicaid recipients,known as PLADs for Poverty Level and Disabled, receive between $700and $1,100 a month. Medicare, he said, only allows for $600 a yearfor prescription drug coverage.

“Not a one of them could make it under the Medicare program morethan two or three months,” Moak said.

Barbour has said Mississippi will still have one of the mostgenerous Medicaid programs in the country. He has also said mostwill have better coverage with Medicare.

Moak doubted the governor’s assertions.

“I’m afraid if the governor has his way, we’re going to find outabout that,” Moak said.

Moak also spoke about the DHS situation.

“We don’t want DHS to go by the wayside, either,” Moak said,adding that the DHS and Medicaid situation was an “all-inclusiveissue.” “We’ve got to take care of all our people. We’re not goingto leave anyone behind.”

Moak agreed with Barnett about the prospects of another specialsession.

“That’s totally up to the governor,” Moak said.