Medicaid Debate Continues

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The federal waivers Mississippi is seeking for about 18,000 people dropped from the Medicaid program drew criticism Tuesday during a Senate committee hearing.

Leighton Ku, senior fellow for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, told lawmakers that the waivers, if approved by the federal government, could eventually result in reduced services for other Medicaid recipients.

Federal officials will only approve the waivers if the state can show it will not cost the government additional money.

Ku said to do that, Mississippi would have to cut other costs within its Medicaid program. The Legislature passed the Medicaid Reform Act during the 2004 session.

The legislation removed 65,000 people who are eligible for health care through the federal-only Medicare program. The state applied for a federal waiver to keep about 18,000 chronically ill recipients in that group on Medicaid, but hasn't received a reply.

Sen. Alan Nunnelee disputed Ku's claim that the waivers would force the state to cut costs elsewhere. Nunnelee said he's not sure how Ku reached that conclusion.