It’s time to end Medicaid crisis

Published 5:00 am Monday, June 16, 2008

With the clock ticking on funding for Medicaid, the MississippiHouse leadership continues to play political games with healthcarefunding for the state’s poor.

At stake is a $90 million dollar shortfall in the upcomingbudget year that, if not funded, will cripple healthcare across thestate and may force smaller rural hospitals into bankruptcy.

The pressure has been building since the special session calledby Gov. Haley Barbour to deal with the crisis was recessed afterthe House and Senate could not agree on a compromise plan.

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At issue is the funding mechanism – a tobacco tax supported byHouse leadership, a hospital tax proposed by the governor andsupported by the Senate or with rainy day funds supported by thosewho do not understand fiscal responsibility.

With the special session set to resume in 11 days and the budgetset to expire at the end of the month, the political pressure isbuilding by the moment.

Beyond politics, what is at play here are millions of dollars infederal money. For every dollar Mississippi applies to the state’sMedicaid program the federal government matches with three dollars!Without a budget solution in the next two weeks those federaldollars are at risk.

At play is power politics – Republicans vs. Democrats. At stakeis the health of the state’s medical community and its ability toprovide affordable healthcare to the citizens of Mississippi.

The House two weeks ago refused an option proposed by thegovernor, approved by the Senate and supported the MississippiHospital Association, that would have solved much of the fundingcrisis. House members offered no new solutions – just politicalstubbornness.

At the request of the House Speaker Billy McCoy, a meeting isscheduled next week between him, the governor and the lieutenantgovernor to find common ground.

Meanwhile, state healthcare providers received letters this pastweek asking their input on a $90 million list of cuts the stateMedicaid office has crafted to implement come July 1.

The clock is ticking. At this point, without anything new tooffer by House leaders, it is time for them to end the politics andresolve this Medicaid crisis.