JACKSON — Gov. Phil Bryant is proposing the state give Mississippi hospitals $4.4 million to offset an expected loss of federal funds due to the Affordable Care Act.
Under the federal health care law, over a period of years the reimbursement to hospitals for treating people with no health care coverage will be reduced.
The intent of the Affordable Care Act is for those reductions to be offset by expanding the Medicaid program. Under the law, that expansion covers people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level or about $15,000 annually for an individual or about $32,000 for a family of four.
Bryant said expanding Medicaid “would ultimately require tax increases or cuts to other services the state provides.”
Medicaid currently covers about 645,000 Mississippians — the elderly, disabled, poor pregnant women and poor children
Others complain that the refusal is putting a hardship on Mississippi’s health care providers, particularly hospitals.
Bryant, in his budget proposal, said the $4.4 million for hospitals in addition to the $8 million he is proposing to enhance Community Health Centers, which receive government assistance and provide primary care to many low-income people.
Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, told the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that the governor is proposing to take state funds away from education and other needs “at the same time he is refusing to accept 100 times that amount of money. Medicaid expansion does not cost the state of Mississippi one red cent, and we have no long-term obligation to continue with the expansion.”
“The governor is turning down something approaching one-half billion dollars in federal funds that can treat sick people and put people to work. At the same time, he is turning down this money he wants to take $4.4 million out of the state budget to go to the hospitals.”
Bryant has conceded the money would not offset all the federal cuts.
“We appreciate the governor’s acknowledgment that hospitals are in need of financial help to recover from severe cuts to reimbursement on both federal and state levels,” said Tim Moore, chief executive officer of the Mississippi Hospital Association.
“Hospitals are finding it very difficult to adjust financially to the almost $3 billion of federal cuts to be experienced by Mississippi hospitals over the next 10 years. Any restoration in funding to our state’s hospitals is truly appreciated,” Moore said.
It has been estimated that by expanding Medicaid to cover those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, as is allowed by new federal law, health care could be provided to about 300,000 primarily working Mississippians.
Democrats have said that according to Bryant’s Medicaid officials the expansion would cost the state $7 million the first year for $70 million in federal funds and over a seven-year period will cost the state a cumulative $450 million while receiving $8.6 billion in federal funds.