The Health Care Trust Fund headed to a zero balance

STARKVILLE — A new Republican governor and new Republican legislative leadership now face the same task that has confounded their Democratic colleagues when they had the reins of state government – finding a way to pay for Mississippi’s massive Medicaid program.

Medicaid is a $3.9 billion federal-state program that provides health care for the poor, the blind, the disabled and children. State taxpayers pick up about 20 percent of the overall costs of the program or $763 million. Most of the rest of the costs are paid by federal tax dollars.

Historically, state lawmakers have authorized a more generous Medicaid program than they have funded with state dollars. But even with austerity measures like face-to-face reauthorizations during the Haley Barbour administration, rising health care costs and increased demand or eligibility for Medicaid driven by high unemployment and a protracted recession have caused the state’s Medicaid costs to steadily increase.

Sid Salter