Currently 720,000 Mississippians are on Medicaid. However, starting July 1 that will all change. That's when the state's newly signed Medicaid bill will take effect. As part of it, 65,000 Mississippians will be removed from the program.
Gov. Haley Barbour said the good news is that bill will improve primary care access for those who will still receive Medicaid. That includes providing annual physicals for recipients, as well as making the program more efficient in many ways, including weeding out those who are abusing the system.
Of the people dropped from Medicaid, those who qualify will be covered by the federally funded Medicare program.
However, with many of the affected being senior citizens and/or disabled people, opponents say Medicare will not meet their needs.
For example, one Meridian drug store operator said the $600 that Medicare provides yearly for recipients' drug costs, will just not be enough.
"Well this one lady I talked to, she's 86 years old. She has four eye drops. Her eye drop costs alone per month is $297, so just in the first two months after this program goes into effect, she's used up her $600 credit even if she qualifies," said druggist Don Waldron.
"After that she's got to pay that price up front for all of her medications. I've got people who are on four or five different blood pressure medications every month. If they don't get them these people could die. We've got a serious health problem on our hands."
Meanwhile, officials from the state Medicaid office are advising affected recipients not to panic.
Mailouts notifiying the people affected by the change will begin by next Tuesday. It may be several more days before those letters reach recipients. Officials say the information each individual needs will be in that letter. If you have any questions you are advised to call the number that will be listed.