Mississippi Medicaid won’t seek midyear infusion of money

January 24, 2019
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Drew Snyder, executive director of the Mississippi Division of Medicaid, gives an agency update to members of the House Medicaid Committee at the Capitol in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s Medicaid director said Wednesday that the program will not seek additional money for the final half of the state budget year. This is the first time that has happened in the past five years.

Director Drew Snyder told lawmakers that enrollment has decreased, accounting for some savings.

The current budget year ends June 30. Snyder said the Division of Medicaid is requesting a modest funding increase of about 2 percent for the year that begins July 1 — less than the cost of health care is rising nationwide.

Medicaid is a government-funded health insurance program, with costs covered by federal and state money. About 22 percent of Mississippi’s nearly 3 million residents are enrolled in it.

Mississippi is among the 14 states that have not expanded Medicaid to the working poor, as allowed under the 2010 health care overhaul signed by then-President Barack Obama.

“Expansion is not in any way part of our agenda,” Snyder told the House Medicaid Committee. “Questions of expansion are left to legislators to decide. ... We have long maintained that the decision to expand Medicaid does not lie with the Division of Medicaid, and take no formal position on that issue.”

Snyder was appointed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant and confirmed by the Senate. Bryant is in his eighth and final year as governor, after a term as lieutenant governor. He has opposed Medicaid expansion since it became a possibility, saying he does not want to increase people’s dependence on government programs.

Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, who presides over the Senate and is running for governor this year, also opposes Medicaid expansion. Reeves keeps tight control over issues the 52-member Senate may consider, so passing a Medicaid expansion bill would be difficult in the Senate even if a proposal cleared the 122-member House.

Many of Mississippi’s rural hospitals have struggled in recent years, and health advocates say expanding Medicaid could help alleviate some of those financial problems by reducing the number of uninsured residents.

Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, listened to Snyder’s presentation Wednesday and came away optimistic that the Bryant administration is softening its position.

“If the governor’s going to step out of the way and let the Legislature decide this, let it be,” Mitchell told reporters after the committee meeting. “That’s very encouraging to hear that from the director of Medicaid.”


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