Medicaid shed 50,000 during interviews

About 50,000 Mississippians no longer receive Medicaid benefits after being eliminated through a face-to-face recertification process, officials say.

Medicaid executive director Bob Robinson told the Joint Legislative Budget Committee on Thursday that most of those taken off the rolls between fiscal years 2005 and 2006 didn't meet eligibility requirements.

But some social activists, many of whom attended Medicaid's hearing before the Budget Committee, said thousands of Mississippi's children have been left uninsured by the recertification process, mainly because parents are unable to travel to offices to be recertified.

Medicaid officials said about 4,000 children are no longer receiving benefits from the Children's Health Insurance Program, which receives federal money to operate. Medicaid officials said they didn't have an exact figure on how many children have been taken off Medicaid.

But Judy Barber of the advocacy group Children's Health Matters said a total of 55,000 children lost benefits from CHIPs and Medicaid between January 2005 and June 2006.

Robinson told lawmakers that the reduction in beneficiaries, changes in prescription drug benefits and new federal Medicare changes have helped hold down costs in Medicaid, which serves about 748,000 of the state's underprivileged.

Medicaid officials on Thursday asked lawmakers to maintain $569.7 million in state funding in fiscal year 2008, which begins July 1. That is the same amount that was appropriated for Medicaid this current fiscal year, but it includes about $317 million in one-time funding.