Mississippi Senate plan steps back from Medicaid changes

MGN Online

A key state senator is backing off plans to change Mississippi's state-federal Medicaid program.

Posted: Jan 29, 2018 7:29 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A key state senator is backing off plans to change Mississippi's state-federal Medicaid program.

The Senate Medicaid Committee on Monday advanced a version of Senate Bill 2836removing earlier proposals to cut payments to health care providers and require all Medicaid spending to be administered by managed care companies. It goes to the Senate for more debate.

Senate Medicaid Committee Chairman Brice Wiggins, a Pascagoula Republican, said he wants to study those proposals, saying health care providers object. For example, nursing home owners don't want to get Medicaid money through managed care, instead of the traditional fee-for-service billing method.

Wiggins told reporters that feedback from those who provide Medicaid services is "'We want to be paid, as opposed to control costs.'"

House Medicaid Committee Chairman Chris Brown, a Nettleton Republican, said his committee will make its own proposal Tuesday, hours before a deadline. Brown, like Wiggins, said he won't try to force more of the program into managed care. He said he might propose "a few things" to mandate cost reductions.

Mississippi's Medicaid program covers one-fourth of the state's population, including people in nursing homes, disabled adults, pregnant women and young children. The program is projected to spend $945 million in state money and more than $5 billion in federal money this year.

Lawmakers must vote on reauthorizing the program this year or parts will legally expire.

Neither chairman is supporting an effort by Mississippi hospitals to mandate that some of the Medicaid program be run through a hospital-sponsored provider care organization. The state Medicaid agency rejected a bid from hospitals to get a share of Medicaid business last year. Brown said he's open to requiring that a provider organization be included, but said he doesn't want to award it to the existing hospital group without a bid.

Neither Brown nor Wiggins say they intend to direct Mississippi Medicaid to apply for waivers from existing federal rules, and they plan no legislative ruling on Gov. Phil Bryant's plan to have the Department of Human Services determine who's eligible for Medicaid. With the governor's backing, Medicaid is currently asking federal authorities to allow it to require adult caregivers to work to remain eligible for health coverage.

Wiggins' plan would change Medicaid rules so that the Medicaid eligibility of prisoners is suspended, instead of cut off. That way, county jail and state prison officials could take them to hospitals, and if they stayed there longer than 24 hours, reactivated benefits mean Medicaid would pay. That would shift some medical bills from counties and the state Department of Corrections onto Medicaid. Because of Mississippi's high share of federal reimbursement, federal money would pay three-quarters of costs.

Wiggins said the move could also provide better access to care for mentally ill inmates.

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