Doty doubts state Medicaid expansion

Published 8:00 pm Thursday, July 12, 2012

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s upholding of the national health care overhaul legislation, Brookhaven state Sen. Sally Doty thinks it is unlikely that Mississippi will expand Medicaid services as allowed under the ruling.

     The Republican lawmaker touched on Medicaid expansion and a number of other topics during the Brookhaven Kiwanis Club meeting Wednesday.

     “I don’t see us expanding Medicaid,” said Doty about prospects in Mississippi, adding that other states may also reject the idea. “I think a lot of Republican states will refuse that.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

     The court ruling on the health care law said the federal government could not deny all Medicaid funding to states that do not expand health services for the poor and disabled as called for under the law.

     The federal government would pick up the tab for the expanded services initially, but part of increased costs for those services eventually will be shifted to the states. Doty said projections indicate that one in three Mississippians would be eligible for Medicaid if the state pursues expanded services.

     “I do not think we can bear that,” said Doty about added costs associated with the expansion.

     Also Wednesday, Doty offered a recap of activities during the legislative session that concluded in May. She praised Gov. Phil Bryant’s administration and lawmakers’ efforts to pass a $5.5 billion budget that also set aside 2 percent for the state’s rainy day fund.

     “This new administration is really focused on accountability and transparency,” Doty said.

     The senator mentioned passage of a moratorium on new vehicle purchases that should save the state about $12 million a year. She also referenced the Sunshine Act, which targeted the attorney general’s power to hire outside legal counsel for state actions.

     Education and economic development were recurring themes for Doty. She touted legislation, such as elimination of the inventory tax and changes to workers compensation laws, that removed barriers to businesses operating in the state.

     “The answer to many of our problems is, first of all, education and then more jobs,” Doty said.

     In the area of education, Doty highlighted a new ranking system that was approved for schools and school districts.

     The new system will see educational entities being given A, B, C, D or F grades as an evaluation of their success. Doty speculated, though, that some people across the state may not like the grades their schools receive.

     “I think it’s going to be tough when we see some of our schools with a D rating,” said Doty, although adding that should spur community efforts toward improvement.

     The senator said she was pleased there were no efforts to close or relocate the Mississippi School of the Arts during this year’s legislative session. She called an April tour of the campus by some members of the Senate Education Committee a “wonderful experience.”

     Doty was asked about the possibility of charter schools, a subject that was heavily discussed during the 2012 session but never approved.

     “It was a very divisive issue this past session,” Doty said.

     Doty expected a more tailored version of charter school legislation to surface during next year’s session and she predicted a bill would pass. She cautioned, though, that charter schools would not happen in communities that have good schools and would only come to communities that want charter schools.

     Still pending in the wake of the legislative session is a redistricting plan for state Senate and House legislative districts. Doty said the plan has been submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice and is awaiting their action.

     Under the plan, Lincoln and Lawrence counties would remain in District 39, but a portion of Simpson County would be removed and replaced with parts of Copiah and Walthall counties. Doty said she has already visited the areas that would be part of her district if the plan is approved.

     “I think it’s a good mix for us,” she said.