Playing politics does nothing to solve state Medicaid crisis

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 16, 2004

It appears the 2007 Mississippi political race has already begunas Democrats try to build on a political hot potato being juggledby the Haley Barbour administration over Medicaid cutbacks set togo into effect next month.

Earlier this week, a series of radio ads purchased by the stateDemocratic Party began airing in selected markets targeting fourRepublican lawmakers: Sens. Tommy Robertson of Moss Point, TravisLittle of Corinth and Alan Nunnelee of Tupelo and Rep. Greg Snowdenof Meridian.

The radio ads play on the emotions of Medicaid recipients andurge voters to contact their legislators to insist Medicaid cutsnot go into effect on Sept. 15. Mississippi Democratic PartyChairman Wayne Dowdy says the four legislators are being singledout because they were instrumental in passing the legislation.

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The ads have already received the expected response fromRepublicans, calling the ads an attempt to politicize the issue tothe advantage of Democrats. “Instead of helping inform (Medicaid)recipients, they’re inflaming the situation,” said John Arledge,the governor’s deputy chief of staff.

Rep. Snowden responded Thursday, saying Dowdy “is lying orcompletely clueless” to the legislative process. Snowden pointedout in an e-mail sent to members of the media that the MedicaidReform Act passed by a strong bipartisan majorities – 43-8 in theSenate and 82-32 in the House. “I’d dearly love to wield the cloutascribed to me, the truth is that both chambers of the MississippiLegislature are firmly controlled by Dowdy’s own party,” Snowdenwrote.

The Meridian representative listed Reps. Steve Holland ofPlantersville, Leonard Morris of Batesville and House Speaker BillyMcCoy, all Democrats, as the “truly instrumental” members in thepassage of the Medicaid cut legislation.

With the next legislative session only four months away thegroundwork is being laid for live-wire politics – politics thatwill do nothing to solve the Medicaid crisis facing the state norsoothe the emotions of recipients dependent on the medical carecoverage being reduced.

While the ads being placed by the Democratic Party addresses aserious situation that needs attention, the ads fail to point outthat the Mississippi Medicaid program faces a financial crisis thatthreatens to undermine the entire Medicaid program for allparticipants.

This crisis was created by the Democrats and the Musgroveadministration when the Democrat-controlled Legislature relaxed therequirement for joining the Medicaid program several years ago. Theresult is the most generous Medicaid program of any state in thecountry and one that Mississippi can no longer afford.

There is no easy solution to the Medicaid situation, but onething is certain: something has to be done. The unfortunate thingis that there are those who choose to play on emotions forpolitical gain instead of offering solutions. Agree or disagree,one has to give Gov. Barbour credit trying to find a solution. Thatis much more than the leadership of the Mississippi DemocraticParty seems to be doing.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, Miss.39602, or send e-mail to