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Medicaid Expansion in 2015: Howell Says State Has Already Added 70,000 More People

JACKSON, Miss.–When you hear talk from state lawmakers about expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, most of what you are hearing is the possibility of the state voluntarily opening the way for about 300,000 more people to get on the rolls. What you may not have known is that under the new law 70,000 more people have already been added since last year.

That’s what state Rep. Bobby Howell said on the Gallo Show earlier this month. That 70,000 does not include another 30,000 children in the state who have been added to the CHIPS rolls.

“To deal with that going into this legislative year, we will have to recognize that in the budget<‘ he said. That budget is now approaching $1 billion in state funds, making it one of the largest budgetary items for state taxpayers.

HOWELL INTERVIEW WITH GALLO

Howell, a Republican who represents Attala, Carroll, LeFlore, Grenada and Montgomery counties,  said when he first began serving in the legislature in the early 90s, the Medicaid budget was just under $300 million.

“We most certainly, because of this increase, are going to be facing a much bigger deficit than we’ve been.”

Some state Democrats have pushed to see the Medicaid rolls expanded because of an increase in federal funds promised by the Affordable Care Act to cover it. The state’s hospitals would also see a financial benefit from increased federal Medicaid dollars, which, according to Howell, come in now at about $5.5 billion.

However, the fight has been on for two years, and will likely go to a third because Gov. Bryant and other state lawmakers believe that the portion of federal Medicaid money offered by the Affordable Care Act expansion would dissolve, leaving the state holding the bag, and unable to afford the increased number of people on Medicaid.

When the legislature gavels in in January, the fights are expected to be many on the Medicaid front and for education, as the state faces tough challenges with MAEP, and a Constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in 2015 that could force lawmakers to fully fund the program each year.

That would likely cause an even bigger battle over what programs get what money, and could eventually force lawmakers to ask for a tax increase.

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