Protesters Oppose Law

Protesters say they object to the state moving thousands of state Medicaid recipients to the federal Medicare roll only. An estimated 65,000 have been under both programs.

"There are hundreds of programs under Medicaid. This is just one program. Why cut this one program to the most vulnerable people in Mississippi?" asked Sharon Burt, specialist for L.I.F.E., or Living Independence For Everyone.

She and others contend that people at the poverty level, elderly, and disabled will not be able to get prescriptions they need once they are cut from state Medicaid rolls.

The law passed the legislature this year and was signed by the governor, who appears to be getting the most heat.

"More than 1350 prescription drugs that pharmaceutical companies make available to every single person moving from Medicaid to Medicare are either free or less than $15 a month," said Haley Barbour.

But some constituents say they are not convinced.

"Why then have the pharmaceutical companies been charging the state and other individuals such exorbitant fees, if they've been out there and free for all this time? Why all of a sudden are they free drugs?" asked Mary Troupe, executive director for the Coalition for Citizens with Disabilities.

"This is a computer printout for prescription assistance. Some of these numbers are not even in existence. You're asked, what company makes your prescription? Then you have to call the company and see if you qualify," Burt said.

Burt said most people affected are unable to do this. Gov. Barbour is reportedly considering delaying implementation of the law, set for July 1. However, protesters say they want a special session for lawmakers to vote again on the Medicaid bill.