March 6, 2011

THERE'S NO SUBJECT ABOUT WHICH WE'RE LESS SERIOUS THAN HEALTH CARE:

Haley Barbour's mixed message on Medicaid (SARAH KLIFF, 3/6/11, Politico)

Mississippi’s Medicaid program covers 22 percent of the state’s population, far above the 16 percent national average. That puts it among the top five states in terms of Medicaid’s reach into the population, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. “I do think the one thing that stands out most in my mind, about our Medicaid program, is we cover such a large percentage of our population already,” says Therese Hanna, executive director of the Mississippi Health Policy Center.

And while Barbour opposed the Democrats’ health care reform law, Mississippi actively sought out new programs made available under it, applying for voluntary grant opportunities under the Affordable Care Act that have the potential to bring new money and coverage opportunities into the state.

With the entitlement program playing such a crucial role in the state’s health delivery system—and, more practically, its providers’ salaries—it has traditionally offered a higher match rate of about 15 percent above the national average.

“We have a very high match rate because we have such a large population, so it has a tremendous impact on how doctors are paid,” Hanna said. “From the provider standpoint, Medicaid is a very important payer. In some areas like the Mississippi Delta, where there’s a higher concentration of low income residents, those providers are very dependent.”

The state has also disproportionately relied on federal funding to bolster the program, with approximately 83 percent of the state’s Medicaid funds coming from Washington.

Even Barbour admits that the state has no intention or interest in leaving the federal entitlement program.

“I can’t imagine Mississippi opting out,” he said at a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday. “We’re a poor state, and it’s an important program. We want to run it better for taxpayers and beneficiaries. … I am not an opt-out advocate and I’m just being forthright about that.”

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Posted by Orrin Judd at March 6, 2011 8:43 AM
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