Bryant aims to stretch Medicaid by payment changes

Gov. Phil Bryant wants to perform a magic trick of sorts: reform Mississippi’s Medicaid program so that it doesn’t cost any more state money next year. Program officials were expecting costs to increase by 16 percent.

The essence of making funds stretch is changing how the state pays hospitals to care for Medicaid patients. That group is mostly poor children, but includes some parents, disabled adults, and senior citizens.

Medicaid will cost Mississippi $763 million this year. Bryant, in releasing his budget Tuesday, called it “the elephant in the phone booth.”

Democratic lawmakers are questioning whether Bryant is just camouflaging cost cutting, which could mean less care for patients or less money for hospitals.

“It’s smoke and mirrors for cuts,” said Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville. “That’s all it is.”