Report To The People

Governor and House Of Representatives Need to Resolve Medicaid Funding Issue

By Tommy Reynolds

The 2008 Regular Session is fast coming to a close, with adjournment scheduled for Saturday, April 19th. Final adoption of state budget bills, which consist of over 50 appropriations bills, will happen the first part of this week. Agreement, in principal has been reached on most Appropriation Bills between the Governor’s position and the House of Representatives‚ position.

I am pleased that in the final version of the University Medical Center budget, we have been able, not only to restore the 17 million cut that the Governor had proposed in funding for this facility, but that additional funding will also to be provided for the facility next year. University Medical Centers trains Mississippi‚s doctors and provides direct patient care to over 250 thousand Mississippians each year. The level of appropriation that UMC will receive next year will hopefully provide that the number of physicians trained will not be reduced. I hope that we can, in future years, actually increase the entering class of the UMC medical school, from 110 per year to 150 per year, and this is the vision that is held by University Medical Center staff and professionals.

A major issue, which should be resolved between the Governor’s position and the House of Representatives’ position, is what to do about funding for Medicaid. Medicaid provides health care coverage for approximately one-fourth of Mississippi’s residents, and includes funding for most nursing home patients in the State of Mississippi, and is a tremendous source of funds for health care providers of all types in this State. Mississippi gets approximately three dollars of Federal funds for every dollar that our State puts in the program, making our State have the most favorable Federal to State match in the country. The cost of the Medicaid Program, which reflects the increase of health care costs, has drastically increased year by year. There remains a great difference in the House of Representatives‚ position and the Governor‚s position in paying for the 90 million dollar plus deficit in Medicaid funding. The Governor originally proposed a gross receipts tax on hospital care. This would provide that the assessment, or some would say tax, at a certain level, would be placed on services provided by hospitals, to provide the 90 million dollars, or so, needed to bridge the Medicaid deficit. The House of Representatives does not favor a tax on hospitals, or hospital care or patients, and would prefer to fund the Medicaid deficit by tobacco tax or other similar revenue measures. As of the writing of this column, no agreement has been reached between the House of Representatives and the Governor on this issue.

Last week, the House of Representatives and the State Senate passed the final version of a bill that I introduced, which will provide one million dollars in funds for flood control structure renovation. Our area has many soil and water conservation structures and dams which are greatly in need of repair. 10 years ago, I introduced a similar bill, which the Legislature passed, and that was matched by Federal funds. I believe that there will be matching Federal funds provided for these State dollars. I do believe that flood control is a critical function of both the State and Federal governments.

The House and Senate, last week, passed a bill to provide for 15 million in Local System Bridge Replacement funds. Under this Bill, Yalobusha County will be provided money to help replace or repair county bridges, which are 50% or greater, under bridge sufficiency guidelines established by the engineer for the State Aid Road Division. I think that it is a critical function of State Government to continue to help local governments restore and replace substandard bridges to provide for the health and safety of our residents

If I can be of any assistance to you please call on me. My phone number in Jackson during the session is (601) 359-3365. The phone number in my Charleston office is (662) 647-3203, and my residence phone number is (662) 473-2571. I can also be contacted by writing me at my home address of 15 CR 429, Water Valley, MS 38965, or at my office address of P.O. Box 220, Charleston, MS 38921.

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