Moak pushes back at Bryant claims

Published 7:30 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2013

By CALEB BEDILLION, DAILY LEADER Staff Writer

     A local legislator and state Democratic leader pushed back Wednesday against claims by Gov. Phil Bryant that Democrats are willing to kill Medicaid in Mississippi in an attempt to force expansion of the program.

     “That’s absolutely disingenuous of the governor,” said District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, Wednesday morning in a phone interview.

     Bryant took his anti-Medicaid expansion message out of the capital and into Moak’s backyard last week, touring a Brookhaven nursing home and then meeting with The Daily Leader editorial board for an interview.

     The 2013 legislative session ended without a bill to authorize the state Medicaid program past June 30. The Democratic minority successfully blocked renewal of the program in an attempt to leverage a vote on expanding the Medicaid rolls as called for under the Affordable Care Act (often dubbed “Obamacare”)

     Moak, one of Lincoln County’s two state representatives and the state House Democratic caucus leader, dismissed Bryant’s criticism that Democrats have adopted an all-nothing attitude in regarding the expansion of Medicaid.

     Instead, Moak said all he’s seeking is a vote on expansion. If such a vote fails, Moak said he would “absolutely” support renewal of Medicaid as it currently exists.

     However, Bryant told The Daily Leader he won’t call a special session on the subject until Democrats agree beforehand to renewal of the program without consideration of expansion. Only the governor has the authority to call a special session.

     Moak described Republicans as “cowering” from a hard vote and challenged Republicans to use their majority status, take an up or down vote on expansion and end uncertainty over Medicaid’s future in the state.

     “In the Bogue Chitto vernacular, go ahead and take me on out there and whip me,” Moak said. “If you’ve got the votes to beat us, then just do it.”

     Despite the GOP governor’s claim that Democrats are willing to derail Medicaid in the state, Moak doesn’t see a scenario in which Medicaid would not be re-authorized if a special session were called.

     “If we vote and it’s (the expansion) voted down, then we re-authorize Medicaid, then we move on,” Moak said. “If we vote and the expansion is approved, then we re-authorize Medicaid.”

     Against what Moak sees as a no-risk scenario for Medicaid patients if a special session is called, Bryant has held out the option that he run the program by executive order.

     No surprise, Moak doesn’t think the governor has that authority. The Medicaid program hasn’t been authorized past June 30n and no money has been allocated by the legislature for the program past that date.

     While state GOP and Democratic leaders appear deadlocked, hospital leaders, including Alvin Hoover of Brookhaven’s King’s Daughters Medical Center, remain apprehensive regarding the uncertainty of the Medicaid program.

     Under the Affordable Care Act, federal payments to hospitals to offer reimbursement for indigent patients would be reduced. Expanded Medicaid rolls were intended to offset the loss of these Disproportionate Share Hospital payments.

     Hospitals in Mississippi could get squeezed though, if those federal DSH payments are cut and the state doesn’t expand Medicaid.

     Hoover, KDMC’s CEO, disagreed with Bryant while striking a conciliatory tone.

     “From a hospital perspective, I need the Medicaid expansion,” Hoover said. “At the same time, I understand where the governor’s coming from, how he doesn’t want to put the state in a fiscal nightmare, but I would just disagree with him a little bit as to what’s it’s going to do to the state.”

     GOP leaders have speculated that DSH cuts won’t actually occur, but Moak seized on a Monday report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid regarding a  timetable for DSH.

     In Brookhaven last week, Bryant dismissed arguments that DSH cuts offer a compelling reason for the state to expand Medicaid. Instead, he suggested hospital leaders lobby Washington to change the Affordable Care Act and remove the DSH cuts.

     Hoover doesn’t see that a constructive response.

     “The governor suggesting that we shouldn’t direct anything to him, is, I think, probably not a realistic approach to solving the problems in Mississippi,” he said.

     Hoover described the current environment in Washington as hostile to compromise and doesn’t have much confidence any change to the ACA could be pushed through.

     “I doubt there’s much room for negotiating Obamacare,” Hoover said. “The climate in Washington is a ‘me’ versus ‘them.’ You hear congressmen talking about compromise, but you’re not seeing it much.”

By CALEB BEDILLION

DAILY LEADER Staff Writer

     A local legislator and state Democratic leader pushed back Wednesday against claims by Gov. Phil Bryant that Democrats are willing to kill Medicaid in Mississippi in an attempt to force expansion of the program.

     “That’s absolutely disingenuous of the governor,” said District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, Wednesday morning in a phone interview.

     Bryant took his anti-Medicaid expansion message out of the capital and into Moak’s backyard last week, touring a Brookhaven nursing home and then meeting with The Daily Leader editorial board for an interview.

     The 2013 legislative session ended without a bill to authorize the state Medicaid program past June 30. The Democratic minority successfully blocked renewal of the program in an attempt to leverage a vote on expanding the Medicaid rolls as called for under the Affordable Care Act (often dubbed “Obamacare”)

     Moak, one of Lincoln County’s two state representatives and the state House Democratic caucus leader, dismissed Bryant’s criticism that Democrats have adopted an all-nothing attitude in regarding the expansion of Medicaid.

     Instead, Moak said all he’s seeking is a vote on expansion. If such a vote fails, Moak said he would “absolutely” support renewal of Medicaid as it currently exists.

     However, Bryant told The Daily Leader he won’t call a special session on the subject until Democrats agree beforehand to renewal of the program without consideration of expansion. Only the governor has the authority to call a special session.

     Moak described Republicans as “cowering” from a hard vote and challenged Republicans to use their majority status, take an up or down vote on expansion and end uncertainty over Medicaid’s future in the state.

     “In the Bogue Chitto vernacular, go ahead and take me on out there and whip me,” Moak said. “If you’ve got the votes to beat us, then just do it.”

     Despite the GOP governor’s claim that Democrats are willing to derail Medicaid in the state, Moak doesn’t see a scenario in which Medicaid would not be re-authorized if a special session were called.

     “If we vote and it’s (the expansion) voted down, then we re-authorize Medicaid, then we move on,” Moak said. “If we vote and the expansion is approved, then we re-authorize Medicaid.”

     Against what Moak sees as a no-risk scenario for Medicaid patients if a special session is called, Bryant has held out the option that he run the program by executive order.

     No surprise, Moak doesn’t think the governor has that authority. The Medicaid program hasn’t been authorized past June 30n and no money has been allocated by the legislature for the program past that date.

     While state GOP and Democratic leaders appear deadlocked, hospital leaders, including Alvin Hoover of Brookhaven’s King’s Daughters Medical Center, remain apprehensive regarding the uncertainty of the Medicaid program.

     Under the Affordable Care Act, federal payments to hospitals to offer reimbursement for indigent patients would be reduced. Expanded Medicaid rolls were intended to offset the loss of these Disproportionate Share Hospital payments.

     Hospitals in Mississippi could get squeezed though, if those federal DSH payments are cut and the state doesn’t expand Medicaid.

     Hoover, KDMC’s CEO, disagreed with Bryant while striking a conciliatory tone.

     “From a hospital perspective, I need the Medicaid expansion,” Hoover said. “At the same time, I understand where the governor’s coming from, how he doesn’t want to put the state in a fiscal nightmare, but I would just disagree with him a little bit as to what’s it’s going to do to the state.”

     GOP leaders have speculated that DSH cuts won’t actually occur, but Moak seized on a Monday report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid regarding a  timetable for DSH.

     In Brookhaven last week, Bryant dismissed arguments that DSH cuts offer a compelling reason for the state to expand Medicaid. Instead, he suggested hospital leaders lobby Washington to change the Affordable Care Act and remove the DSH cuts.

     Hoover doesn’t see that a constructive response.

     “The governor suggesting that we shouldn’t direct anything to him, is, I think, probably not a realistic approach to solving the problems in Mississippi,” he said.

     Hoover described the current environment in Washington as hostile to compromise and doesn’t have much confidence any change to the ACA could be pushed through.

     “I doubt there’s much room for negotiating Obamacare,” Hoover said. “The climate in Washington is a ‘me’ versus ‘them.’ You hear congressmen talking about compromise, but you’re not seeing it much.”