FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 23, 2004

GOVERNOR HALEY BARBOUR CORRECTS MISINFORMATION AT MEDICAID FORUMS

(Jackson, Miss.) — Governor Haley Barbour today corrected misinformation distributed at regional Medicaid forums, which were reportedly organized by “advocacy groups” to inform state Medicaid recipients being transitioned to federal Medicare. Today’s forums were held in Hattiesburg and Gulfport.

“We need to reassure our patients with the facts and help them get the best care possible – not scare them for political gain,” said Governor Barbour. “These forums should be about helping, not Halloween,” he added.

According to Medicaid staff, much of the information given at the forums was incorrect, including:

• Inaccuracy: "People covered by both Medicare and Medicaid already have unlimited visits to physicians, emergency rooms, etc. and access to numerous hospital and home health days. They're not gaining anything new."

Correction: For people who have been dually eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare, they have to live by the Medicaid rules which place limits on their physician visits, hospital visits, emergency room visits, and home health visits. Under Medicare, all of these limits are either increased or eliminated. This is better than Medicaid.

• Inaccuracy: “Medicaid beneficiaries cannot get the drugs they need until the main Medicare drug benefit begins in January 2006 …”

Correction: Medicaid beneficiaries can get the drugs they need. Everyone shifting over to Medicare is eligible for patient assistance programs, which provide more than 1350 drugs now available for FREE or no more than $15 per month. They can sign up for a Medicare-Approved Drug Discount Card that will provide discounts on prescriptions drugs they cannot get for free. They also get $1200 to help pay for any prescription drugs they cannot get for free.

• Inaccuracy: "It will be impossible for the federal government to approve these waivers on July 1..."

Correction: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has told Mississippi Medicaid officials that it is not impossible to grant waivers on July 1. They are currently working on these very waivers we requested, knowing our July 1 deadline for coverage.

• Inaccuracy: "Every dollar the state cuts from Medicaid results in the loss of more than $3 in federal matching funds...These cuts in Medicaid cost the (sic) Mississippi far more than they save and will leave the state poorer..."

Correction: Medicare routinely reimburses health care providers at a higher rate than Medicaid, with no required match from state taxpayers. Therefore, instead of putting up $1 in state funds to get $3 in federal funds, the State of Mississippi will put up $0 to get more than $4 for physician visits, hospital visits, etc. Other significant savings in the Medicaid Reform Act target the profits of pharmaceutical companies – this does not impact the Mississippi health care economy.

• Inaccuracy: “19 other states offer programs comparable to PLADs and are not cutting benefits besides Mississippi…”

Correction: No other state in the nation has a PLADs program like Mississippi that covers people above the poverty line.

• Inaccuracy: “Money to fund the Department of Medicaid is in the budget, and it can be done without a tax increase or cutting services…”

Correction: There is not enough money in the Medicaid budget to pay for the PLADs program. When similar claims have been made about the program in the past, Medicaid has always had to ask for a deficit appropriation – this is one of the reasons we are in a budget crisis. Mississippi cannot afford the explosive growth of Medicaid. Even with full enactment of new reform legislation, the state appropriation for the Medicaid program will have more than doubled in just five years – 104% growth between Fiscal Year 2000 and Fiscal Year 2005. The program had to be examined to see if there were better ways for patients to get the care they need that were affordable to taxpayers.

“I understand that change can be difficult,” Governor Barbour said. “However, with these changes, the vast majority of recipients will have coverage that is as good or better than what they had. We need to help people understand that.”


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Governor Haley Barbour
P.O. Box 139 Jackson, MS 39205
Phone: 601.359.3150 Fax: 601.359.3741
         

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