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Lawmakers want to work on Medicaid

Lincoln County lawmakers hailed Gov. Haley Barbour’s decision tocall a special session Wednesday to reauthorize the Department ofHuman Services, but Medicaid issues remained foremost onlegislators’ minds.

“I hope we have an opportunity to address at least part of theMedicaid issues,” said Dist. 39 Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

In calling the special session, Barbour limited the agenda toonly DHS reauthorization for another year. Dist. 92 Rep. Dr. JimBarnett expected that could be resolved in a day while Hyde-Smithexpected the session to go into Thursday.

“I think we ought to get up there and get out,” Barnettsaid.

Barbour also announced that 65,000 Medicaid recipients who werescheduled to be transitioned to Medicare on Thursday now will notbe moved until Sept. 15.

“He felt by then we’d get all the waivers from Washington,” saidBarnett, referring to the state’s request to maintain Medicaidcoverage for 18,000 recipients. “I want all 65,000 myself.”

Dist. 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, however, said he was hopeful that theHouse would provide for coverage of 65,000 Medicaid recipientsthrough the DHS legislation as it had done during an earlierspecial session. Moak was unsure what the Senate’s reaction to thattactic would be.

“I don’t think we can worry about what the Senate wants to do,”Moak said. “We have to worry about what is the right thing to do,and I think that’s the right thing to do.”

Moak said the House should stand firm if it takes that position.The representative was also skeptical of any impact thepostponement to Sept. 15 would have in improving the situation.

“It’s the same result: you’re postponing the inevitable,” Moaksaid.

Moak said his position is to maintain Medicaid coverage underthe current law. He said funding for that could come from about$105 million in budgeted savings.

Barnett said he had received dozens of telephone calls and dailye-mails from recipients and family members concerned about theswitch. Hyde-Smith said the transition effort so far has been a”total mess.”

“It’s so much confusion,” the senator said.

Hyde-Smith cited instances of the wrong people scheduled to losebenefits, a lack of information regarding the changes at regionalMedicaid offices and a lack of solid answers at the statelevel.

The senator said she hopes the delay will allow time to get thesituation worked out so that people who need Medicaid services themost will not lose them. Acknowledging possible merits in thegovernor’s plan, Hyde-Smith said it still needs betterimplementation and better information.

“If it’s the greatest plan in the world, it’s not doing anybodyany good,” Hyde-Smith said.

Discussions about the switch have included references to a website, www.Medicare.gov, and drug discount cards as assistanceefforts. Mentioning the case of a 92-year-old grandmother she heardabout Monday, Hyde-Smith said that’s not much help to somerecipients.

“When you give a 92-year-old woman a web site, you’ve donenothing to help her,” Hyde-Smith said.

While the issue is not officially on the agenda, Hyde-Smith saidWednesday’s special session will give lawmakers time to talk abouttheir respective Medicaid stories and share ideas on betterimplementation and better distribution of good information. Shesaid that implementation will need a reasonable timetable.

“It will be a very difficult transition at best,” Hyde-Smithsaid. “We need to get good information out to the people who aredepending on it and needing it.”