/Obamacare repeal would increase state costs, health officer says

Obamacare repeal would increase state costs, health officer says

The president-elect stated many times on the campaign trail that his top priority would be to replace Obamacare by “something fantastic,” most likely a privatized plan. The session was dominated by Thursday’s hearings of the legislative budget working group, which were focused on commodities. However, there was much anxiety and excitement about reform in healthcare. Ten minutes into the session, Senator Sollie Norwood (D-Jackson) shifted from vehicle usage to procurement cards to inquire about the impact of a possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act on the agency’s cost. “We’ve been hearing lots of talk about the Affordable Care Act… Looking at the services provided and the impact it would have on your department. Norwood asked, “Do you have any idea or expectation about how it will impact healthcare in the United States?” Mary Currier, the state’s health officer, stated that without federal subsidies, more people would not have insurance and rely on the government to provide services. Currier stated, “One of the consequences that would occur is the fact that many of those patients who have gone to private providers may come back to state care. We need to be ready to stand up and work out that… and provide that care.” The Speaker of the House Philip Gunn (R-Clinton) then asked Currier if providing additional care would have a significant financial impact on Department of Health. Currier stated, “Well, it would be very difficult because we would have to hire more people in our clinics, nurses, nurse practitioners, aids and clerks and that takes money, even though we get reimbursed (federally), at the lower rate…that’s down-the-road, so it will be difficult. Mitchell Adcock, the chief administrative officer of the Department of Health, stated that their clinics have seen a drop in patients ever since the implementation of the national health law in 2013. He said that if the numbers rise, the department will ask the Legislature to provide additional funding. However, some legislators expressed optimism that the Affordable Care Act would allow departments to save money. Senator Brice Wiggins (R-Pascagoula) asked whether the department could avoid the purchase of expensive equipment if the Affordable Care Act was repealed. “As a result of the recent presidential election, my guess is that Obamacare will be reviewed quickly and likely to differ from what it is currently. Will that impact… the purchase of equipment? Wiggins stated that Obamacare required states to do different things in order to fulfill mandates. Executive director of the Division of Medicaid Dr. David Dzielak stated that commodities will continue to be expensive because the Affordable Care Act regulations focus on expanding eligibility guidelines. The expansion of Medicaid in 2013 saw an increase in beneficiaries. However, the Division of Medicaid did not hire more staff. He stated that he wouldn’t be allowed to cut payroll if the law was repealed, even though there were more beneficiaries. Rep. Sam Mims (Republican from McComb) asked Dzielak about block grant funding. Trump and Paul Ryan, the U.S. House Speaker, have both endorsed a plan that would transform Medicaid from an entitlement program to a block grant program. An entitlement program guarantees coverage for all who are eligible, and the federal government covers 60% of the costs without caps. Block grants would reduce this open-ended approach by providing annual lump sums to states. States would be able to reduce benefits and eligibility, as well as have greater control over their Medicaid programs. They would be responsible for paying costs that exceed their federal allotment. Mississippi has supported the block grant program in the past. The then-Gov. Haley Barbour, then-Gov., advocated it and told a Congressional committee that “Y’all would save a LOT of money if we ran the program.” However, Dzielak, two days after Tuesday’s election, admitted that he didn’t have any answers regarding the future funding for his division. “I wish that I could see the future. Dzielak stated that this is something we will have to carefully study and how it affects our agency, and business. The budget group hearings were mainly focused on state-owned vehicles, and commodities. There are many vehicles in different departments. Some have fleets of 707 vehicles in the Department of Mental Health, while others may only have 15 in the Division of Medicaid. Dzielak stated that Medicaid replaces vehicles once they have travelled 120,000 miles. Other departments may end up falling apart. The Department of Health owns nine emergency trucks. One for each of the nine districts. All nine trucks were donated by the state to help with Hurricane Katrina cleanup in 2005. They are still in service, or at least they were up until last week when one of them exploded in Meridian. Currier stated that the department has chosen to replace vehicles “as they break down.” Lt. Governor. Tate Reeves inquired if the department was concerned about waiting for an emergency vehicle’s to stop running before replacing it. This could pose a threat to public health. Adcock stated, “It does (concern) us because of the circumstance after this week.” “We do some maintenance to keep them safe. But… I’ll tell ya. “We will likely have to address that year.” To support this work, make a regular donation today to celebrate our Spring Member Drive. 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