Gov. Phil Bryant and Speaker Philip Gunn are hoping a handful of Republican House members will put aside ethical concerns, vote with the team and end the state Medicaid standoff.
But this has Democrats spitting mad, crying foul and posting conspiracy theories. It’s also likely to get the courts involved, and it’s dragging the state Ethics Commission, bless its heart, into the fray.
In other words, the Mississippi Medicaid situation is: situation normal, all fouled up, as the clock ticks. The program is set to “expire” July 1. If there’s a compromise in the offing, it’s being kept secret. The main game afoot right now is GOP strategy to get a few more votes, at least enough to fund Medicaid for the year, then let Bryant run it temporarily by executive fiat and fight over expansion later.
Medicaid was held hostage over the Obamacare fight in the regular legislative session. House Democrats, pushing for Medicaid expansion, blocked funding and reauthorization of the program, trying to force a vote on expansion. Republicans, although in the majority, were a few votes shy of preventing this because six members refrained from voting because of potential conflicts of interest. They work for health care providers that receive money from Medicaid.
The six GOP House members who didn’t vote are: Donnie Bell, who does PR for a hospice provider; Bubba Carpenter, a paramedic; Becky Currie, a nurse for a home-health company; Mac Huddleston, a veterinarian who’s married to a doctor; Sam Mims, who does marketing for a regional health firm; and Margaret Rogers, whose father is a retired doctor.
The state Ethics Commission has issued many opinions over many years about lawmakers with health care jobs voting on Medicaid. They’re all over the map, because the particulars of each lawmaker’s case are different. But in very general terms, the rulings have trended that those who work for public hospitals and providers can vote on Medicaid; those working for private companies cannot.
Currently, two requests for opinions on the issue are pending before the eight-member Ethics Commission. One is a blanket request that would ostensibly cover all the lawmakers, the other an individual’s request. The identity of those making such requests is by law confidential, but Gunn has said he made the blanket request.