By Axel Spaeh
JACKSON, Mississippi: Governor Phil Bryant has stated that he believes that he can continue to operate Mississippi's Medicaid program even if the legislature has not reauthorized or set the program's budget by July 1, the start of the state's new fiscal year. Governor Bryant said, "As head of the Governor's Division of Medicaid, I will do all I can to continue and to provide Medicaid to the citizens who qualify in the state of Mississippi". The Governor appoints the state Medicaid director and has said that it is hid job to ensure Medicaid recipients residing in nursing homes are not "thrown out on the street". Governor Bryant's statements come as Mississippi lawmakers ended their regular session without reauthorizing or funding Medicaid. Governor Bryant may call the Mississippi Legislature to a special session focused on reauthorizing and funding Medicaid before the July 1 deadline in order to avoid having to run the program without authorization or a budget.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has indicated that he does not believe a Governor can unilaterally run a state agency. Mississippi House of Representatives Democratic Leader Robert Moak told the press "it would be difficult for the governor to run Medicaid without legislative approval and that Bryant would have to take money from the general fund or cut essential programs to make that possible".
The lack of authorization or a budget for Mississippi's Medicaid program is the result of a partisan dispute during the 2013 regular legislative session during which "Democrats said it would be foolish to bypass federal money that would pay for most of the tab, and Republicans said the state can't afford to put up to 300,000 more people on the program. Medicaid already enrolls more than 640,000 in a state with about 3 million residents".