JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Gov. Haley Barbour's plan to pay for
Medicaid violates state and federal laws, according to attorneys
for nearly 40 hospitals.
The hospitals have not legally challenged the proposal that
would increase their taxes, cut Medicaid reimbursements and replace
the cuts with federal money associated with the health care
But they are exploring options in Hinds County Chancery Judge
Patricia Wise's court. Wise was asked Friday to keep alive a case
that stopped Barbour's previous plan to make deep cuts in Medicaid
services until the agency provides more proof of why the reductions
The state wants Wise to dismiss the case, since Barbour withdrew
that plan after her ruling. She did not make an immediate ruling.
John Sneed, an attorney for the hospitals, contends that the
governor's new plan is "a thinly veiled attempt" to fund the
shortfall through a method that another judge said violated state
Barbour has said his plan is allowed under the previous ruling.
Medicaid serves almost 600,000 low-income Mississippi residents
and faces an annual shortfall of about $90 million.
Barbour, who oversees Medicaid, said his plan ends a monthslong
battle with lawmakers over the proper funding source. A special
legislative session ended last week with no resolution between
Senate leaders who sided with him on a hospital tax and House
Democrats who preferred including a tobacco tax hike.
Lawmakers have used one-time money as a past funding solution.
Under Barbour's plan, hospitals bear the burden of filling the $90
million hole. The governor contends it will not result in higher
costs to patients.
Barbour said that without the plan, he'll have to cut the
Medicaid budget. State law gives a governor authority to make cuts
when Medicaid faces a deficit, but House Democrats say cuts are
unnecessary now and have not been made previously in Barbour's
Officials with the Mississippi Hospital Association said the
plan concerns them because it usually takes a year for hospitals to
be repaid with federal money.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)