In January, several bills were introduced in the Mississippi Senate that would take steps toward nullifying the effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The proposed legislation would implement state-level pushback to the controversial federal health care law.
Senate Bill (SB) 2534, introduced by State Sen. Angela Burks Hill (R-40), and SB 2535, introduced by State Sen. Michael Watson (R-54), were both introduced on Jan. 9. Both of these bills seek to protect patients and health care providers from being assessed taxes, fees or penalties for making direct payments for lawful health care.
“It’s about protecting the private health care industry in Mississippi,” said State Sen. Angela Burks Hill, who introduced SB 2534.
“Right now we have some great doctors in the state of Mississippi that are no longer accepting Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance. Instead they are charging yearly fees for medical visits on a cash basis because of the regulation of Medicaid and Medicare and the amount of paperwork that’s now involved.”
Private practice physicians in rural areas are especially susceptible to the effects of the increased regulations that have accompanied the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Overhead costs for health care practices are increasing due to new federal documentation requirements while insurance reimbursement rates are dropping.
This can be especially detrimental to small private practice physicians who do not have the infrastructure support of a hospital.
The loss of smaller private practice health care could pose problems for Mississippians living in rural areas. It could cause a reduction in health care accessibility for rural Mississippians.
“We want to protect these doctors, who want to set up their own practices, from government interference that might discourage them,” Hill said. “We’re doing everything we can to bring doctors into rural Mississippi.”
While both SB 2534 and SB 2535 were not passed through committees, another bill aimed at health care reform was introduced to the State Senate. On Jan. 19, State Senator Chris McDaniel (R-42) introduced SB 2768. The proposed bill would totally remove the state from any part of the implementation of the ACA.
“Our constitutional system demands that all power that is not given to the central government belongs to the states and the people respectively,” McDaniel said.
“We conservatives aren’t saying that we’re against health care. What we’re saying is that there are proper ways to experiment with it and ways not to experiment with it. The central government has no power in this regard and all states have the right to experiment as they see fit.”
The Affordable Care Act has become a very controversial issue due to its centralized nature. Traditionally states have handled health care policy; the Affordable Care Act signifies that the federal government is taking on a more significant role than it traditionally has in regards to health. This has caused much concern amongst state lawmakers such as Sen. McDaniel.
“I think that it’s important for state government to find their proper role in the system again,” McDaniel said.
SB 2768 would also place a ban on Medicaid expansion in Mississippi. The reasoning behind this provision is that the expansion of Medicaid would result in greater state spending.
“Medicaid is expanding at an unsustainable rate, and it’s beginning to eat more and more into the state budget,” McDaniel said. “We know that federal government is $18 trillion in debt and it’s expanding so rapidly that we have to recognize that the growth is unsustainable. We have to begin to prepare for a more conservative government.”
When asked about his expectations for the bill, McDaniel said that he does not expect the bill to make it to the floor for a vote this year.
“Many people in positions of authority are killing bills for purely political reasons, primarily out of a vindictive nature,” McDaniel said.