Delay likely in Medicaid change

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 17, 2004

Local legislators praised Governor Haley Barbour for consideringto postpone the implementation of Medicaid cuts, but said thepostponement would not solve the overlying issues.

District 92 Rep. Dr. Jim Barnett was among 59 members of theConservative Coalition and their guests who met with the governorWednesday afternoon. He said they received strong indications thatthe governor would agree to the postponement.

Dr. Barnett believes a postponement would only be a temporarysolution.

“That’s not going to be enough in my opinion,” he said.

District 39 Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith agreed, and added thebiggest problem has been with the implementation of theprogram.

“I think we’re going to have to do something for these people,”she said. “It can’t be done overnight, and there’s no way we can dothis if it’s going to possibly kill people. The biggest problem hasbeen implementation and those falling through the cracks whodesperately need it.”

Many thousands of Mississippians qualify to get prescriptionsfrom the pharmaceutical companies for free, Hyde-Smith said, butare not aware of the programs and how to enroll in them.

The postponement does help by giving citizens the opportunity tolearn of these programs and to understand the changes made in theMedicaid program, she said.

Hyde-Smith said that trying to implement the new program in 20days caused “a fiasco” and she encouraged legislators yesterday torequest at least a six month postponement.

“The assistance to get them in these programs has never beenthere,” she said. “We truly need to give these people access to it.We need assistance in the local areas to do this.”

The program will need to be postponed again if the waivers donot come through in the next 90 days, she said.

“It was never the intent of the legislature for people to gowithout coverage,” Hyde-Smith said. “We were assured the waiverswould be there before the session ended.”

Barnett said he also regrets voting with the vast majority inapproving the cuts.

“I voted for the changes because he (Gov. Barbour) assured us hewould get the waivers,” Barnett said. “He says the waivers areforthcoming, but I haven’t seen them.”

District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak joined Barnett and Hyde-Smith inurging Barbour to call a special session to allow legislators toaddress the Medicaid situation.

“The bottom line is it’s just not enough to help these people,”he said. “The governor has not come forward with these waivers ashe said he would and, at this point, it doesn’t look like he will.We believe the money is there already in some savings we have made.We don’t believe it would entail a tax increase or redoing thebudget to solve this.”