Citizens Criticize Changes

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A crowd of about 100 people gathered at Meridian's Senior Citizens Center to hear the views of state legislators and others about the bill that mandated the change.

Although Rep. Eric Robinson of Quitman was announced as the feature speaker, neither he nor any other senator or representative appeared.

"I'm afraid it tells us that's why these people are in the predicament in the first place," said K.C. Grist, program manager for the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program.

Members of the audience rose to speak about the law passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor. All were critical.

A surprise guest was former Mississippi Governor Bill Allain who came from Jackson to attend. He has taken a position on the controversy.

"I think the governor ought to call a special session. The Legislature ought to come down here next week or whenever it is. They ought to pass a bill to correct this," Allain said. "They shouldn't get one nickel for coming back down here. They messed it up. They ought to come down here and correct it and correct it free."

Gov. Haley Barbour earlier continued to support the change.

"I think most of our beneficiaries moving from Medicaid to Medicare are going to have better coverage, more hospital beds, more nursing home beds, more home health days," said Barbour. "But I am hearing people talk about that they think their constituents haven't had enough time to learn what's available to them."

Late Thursday, Barbour's office released a statement from the governor who is in Washington meeting with officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He's seeking waivers for certain Medicaid recipients.

"I appreciate the positive responses we are receiving from officials at CMS," said Barbour. "I am confident the waivers we are asking for will be granted."

The changes in Medicaid become effective July 1.