With the budget completed, only a few items remain to be finished during the 2018 session, which could end as early as today.

The state House was holding final passage of the budget for the Division of Medicaid until the so-called Medicaid technical amendments bill was passed by both chambers Tuesday. House members feared that the Senate leadership, primarily Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, was willing to let the technical amendments bill die, giving the governor more authority over the Division of Medicaid.

Rep. Jason White, R-West, one of the House negotiators along with Medicaid Chairman Chris Brown, R-Nettleton, said, “the focus…was to get more prevention in the whole program.”

White said the bill did that by removing the five prescription drug limit and the 12 office visits limit per month for Medicaid recipients. White said the limits, put in place in the 2000s to hold down costs, actually contributed to higher costs in the health care agency by leading to more emergency room visits.

The bill passed both chambers Tuesday by overwhelming margins.

The bill mandates that managed care companies, that oversee the health care of about 70 percent of the Medicaid recipients, provide services to those suffering drug addictions.

Many legislators, particularly House members, expressed concerns throughout the session with the services being provided by the managed care companies. The state has contracts totaling more than $2 billion with three for-profit companies to oversee the health care of Medicaid recipients.

Some legislators wanted Mississippi hospitals to be allowed to operate a managed care company for Medicaid. Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said he was disappointed that the Senate leadership would not agree to a hospital-operated managed care company, but said he was pleased the hospitals, many of which are struggling financially, were guaranteed better reimbursement rates in the technical amendments bill.

Senate Medicaid Chairman Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, said he did not think it was appropriate to award a managed care contract to the Mississippi Hospital Association when it lost out in the normal bid process conducted by the Division of Medicaid.

The technical amendment bill does call for an audit of the managed care companies to determine their cost effectiveness and establishes a commission to study whether the companies are meeting the stated goal of holding down costs while improving the health of the more than 700,000 Medicaid recipients – primarily the disabled, poor children, poor pregnant women and poor elderly.

 — Bobby Harrison / Daily Journal