Wednesday, March 13, 2013 1:00 AM
Medicaid expansion could eventually cost Mississippi half a billion dollars the state doesn't have, but without an alternative, hospitals like Neshoba General face crisis.
The Mississippi Hospital Association announced Monday that it's working with Gov. Phil Bryant's office to address budget constraints resulting from the Affordable Care Act amid Bryant's opposition to the federal health care overhaul.
We oppose ObamaCare on principle because it is an intrusion on the states and individuals. Elections have consequences, however, and this overreaching, bad law is the law of the land - until Congress acts.
Everyone can applaud the President for espousing affordable, universal coverage with expanded individual choice of plans, doctors and care. But so far it's unclear if the Affordable Care Act will produce these desired results and bring costs down. Preliminary indications are that insurance costs are rising.
Lucien Smith, deputy chief of staff and policy director for Gov. Bryant, argued before a packed hearing this week that the expansion would cost hundreds of millions. But Smith, a former top Barbour aide and Harvard grad, said that even those who support the expansion should wait before making up their minds.
"Making an error on Medicaid expansion will be incredibly costly, and secondly, it's premature to make a decision on it," Smith said.
Part of that argument comes from an unclear picture of how Disproportionate Share Hospital funding would change over the next few years. Those funds are used to help pay back hospitals like Neshoba General that serve a large share of uninsured citizens. The funding stream is scheduled to be reduced, but presenters at the hearing said they're not yet sure by how much.
Mississippi House Republican leaders have suggested that if enough states opt out, ObamaCare will collapse.
Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Greg Snowden, R-Meridian, said in September of the expansion, "If enough states decide not to participate, it's a house of cards."
Republican governors once ferocious in their fight against ObamaCare have backed down.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, one of the most brazen opponents, reflects a new pragmatism.
"People may agree or disagree with my position on this social issue or that social issue, but as long as I'm not rubbing it in their face all the time and instead talking about jobs and balancing the budget in a way that's relevant to their lives, that's where the real focal point is," Walker said.
Are these governors surrendering the sovereignty of their states? The Nov. 6 election took care of that.
This is the European-style model voters affirmed when they re-elected Barack Obama president.
ObamaCare could cost Neshoba General
$1 million and 25 positions without Medicaid expansion, Administrator Lonnie Graeber said.
What Mississippi Republicans will hopefully realize is that without a compromise on Medicaid, rural hospitals like Neshoba General face peril.
Welcome to Greece!