One of the most significant bills Mississippi lawmakers will take up this legislative session is reauthorizing the state's Medicaid program. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.
Every three years or so, Mississippi legislators must review how the Medicaid program is operated. The state provides some 750,000 Mississippians with services. Republican Senator Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula chairs the Medicaid Committee. His bill, Senate Bill 2836, removes the current cap of 12 doctor visits per year and five prescriptions per month. Instead, the state division of Medicaid would collaborate with doctors on visits and prescriptions needed.
"People would reach their limit and then they would end up in an emergency room so they could go get a prescription. Well this way they can be proactive and do that working with the managed care companies with the Mississippi Division of Medicaid," said Wiggins.
His goal cut costs and better health outcomes. The bill allows city and county inmates to keep Medicaid benefits to reduce hospital visits and help local governments. Wiggins says a state law requires a 5 percent cut to provider reimbursements when the program is reauthorized to contain rising costs. He says over the years providers have been exempted from that reduction. Wiggins included the five percent reimbursement cut in his bill. But after a backlash over the issue he removed it. Democratic Senator Sollie Norwood of Jackson is on the Medicaid Committee. He's concerned cost-cutting measures could impact preventive health care.
"Our population is not as healthy for various reasons so obviously it's going to costs us a little bit more and I think if we can invest more money on the front end in terms of preventive health then it would help us as we get an aged population.
A study by the state division of Medicaid found Mississippi pays higher provider reimbursements than surrounding states. Senator Wiggins says the program costs $1 billion dollars in state funding.