Miss. Democrats propose plan for health coverage

missisipi-democraticMississippi Democratic lawmakers unveiled their proposed health care coverage plan today that is modeled after a proposed plan in Arkansas that would use federal Medicaid dollars to pay for private insurance coverage for 300,000 low income individuals who are eligible for Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.

"After reviewing the plan recently passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in Arkansas, and after talking with officials of Health and Human Services, we believe we have a plan that will work, that is a real alternative to Medicaid expansion, and that would gain approval from Washington," said state Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, flanked by about 20 other lawmakers at the state Capitol.

The proposed plan is called the Mississippi Market Based Health Insurance Coverage Plan. It would create a state-based health insurance exchange that would be administered by the state Department of Insurance in cooperation with the state Division of Medicaid.

"It would save the state money in two ways: First, as working adults join the exchanges and receive health insurance, they can move their eligible children from the CHIP (children insurance program) onto a family policy," state Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said. "Second, the federal government will pay 90 percent of almost all of the administrative costs associated with setting up the eligibility programs."

The lawmakers said the plan is a compromise. Ideally, expanding Medicaid is what they want, but they know that isn't going to happen with the Gov. Phil Bryant and other Republican leaders opposed to strictly expanding Medicaid. The compromise plan was presented to the governor's office and to the office of the Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn.

Bryant has proposed the idea of using grant money to pay for medical coverage for the poor at federal qualified community health centers. Democrats applauded Bryant for wanting to use community health centers, but said the centers can't provide all the care that would be needed.

Brown, Johnson and others say they hope the governor will listen to their proposal and have a discussion on it.

State lawmakers left their regular session without reauthorizing or funding state Medicaid for the coming fiscal year that starts July 1.

If no funding is approved in a special legislative session before the program that already serves more than 640,000 people, the state Medicaid program will expire June 30

source: http://www.clarionledger.com

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