The issue facing the Mississippi Legislature is really very simple. Do we want to continue to collect about $200 million a year from hospitals to help fund the Medicaid program – just as we have done for years – or do we want to reduce those payments by $90 million a year, diverting that money from other priorities such as education, public safety and, indeed, other health care programs?
Ultimately, we also need to increase taxes on tobacco products. But we need to raise those taxes by more than $90 million, we need to include an increase on chewing tobacco and we need to spend the proceeds of those taxes in an effective manner. We don’t need to distribute them to hospitals. The logical time to debate those issues is in the 2009 session. There is no connection between the tobacco tax increase and this $90 million problem.