The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 2/17/9

During a contentious special session last summer, the Mississippi House resisted calls by Gov. Haley Barbour and the Senate leadership to plug a $90 million hole in the Division of Medicaid by increasing the tax on hospitals.

Months later, in the midst of the current regular session, it is apparent the House still opposes the plan. The House has approved what its leadership describes as a compromise – to assess an additional $45 million on the state’s hospitals to help cover the shortfall.

The shortfall is in a program that reimburses hospitals for some of their losses from treating indigent patients and recipients of Medicaid, a federal-state program that provides health care to about 600,000 elderly, disabled and poor pregnant women and children. Barbour has said that since the hospitals benefit from the $285 million in federal funds drawn down by the $90 million in state funds for the program, the hospitals should put up the state match.

While the House, by an overwhelming 104-10 margin, passed a Medicaid bill that provides $45 million from the hospitals to plug the deficit, the governor’s proposal to plug the entire $90 million shortfall with a tax on hospitals was killed in a Senate committee.

In other words, at this point in the legislative process, Barbour’s proposal is not alive, though it could be revived easily.

It is not clear whether the Senate leadership will try to amend the House bill to increase the tax to $90 million as the governor wants.