Mississippi Medicaid vote may prompt special legislative session
Wednesday, April 3, 2013 1:00 AM
JACKSON (AP) - The Mississippi House on Monday failed for the second time to adopt a Medicaid budget, making a special session highly likely before the fiscal year starts July 1.
The program is set to expire June 30 after legislation to reauthorize and fund it was killed in a fight over expanding the program to 300,000 people.
House Bill 1653 needed support from a majority of elected House members. Instead, Monday's vote was 57 in favor and 50 against, a few votes shy of the 61 needed for the bill to pass.
Meanwhile, Charter schools have cleared their most difficult remaining legislative hurdle in Mississippi.
House members voted 62-56 Tuesday with no debate to approve a House-Senate agreement on House Bill 369. (See story page 6A)
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, a Republican from Poplarville, spoke in support of the Medicaid bill, saying he doesn't like to lose.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant released a statement after Sunday's failed vote, saying Democrats were playing politics.
Democrats want to expand Medicaid as part of the health overhaul that President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010, but Bryant says the state can't afford expansion.
Democrats are trying to force a voting on expanding the Medicaid program to serve about 300,000 "working poor," per the Affordable Health Care Act.
Republican Sen. Giles Ward of Louisville said he supports funding and continuing Medicaid in its present form but he is not for expanding it to include 300,000 additional people.
"I'm not in support of expanding it," Ward said. "I've been abundantly steadfast on that since the Neshoba County Fair last year."
Ward called the proposed expansion "catastrophic" for the state's future.
"With the taxpayers three years down the road having to fund the expansion without the full support of federal funds, then someone will have to pay those bills. We may be faced with a significant increase in tax revenue or the taking away from other budgets. I'm certainly open to genuinely consider any plausible and reasonable way to fund it."