Forget about making Mississippi healthier. Forget about the cost to taxpayers. The fight over Medicaid in Mississippi is turning into an all-out partisan turf war.
The latest salvo came yesterday, when Democratic Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood issued an opinion stating that the governor cannot lawfully run the Medicaid program if the Legislature fails to reauthorize the program.
At odds over whether the state should expand Medicaid, lawmakers couldn't come to a consensus on renewing Medicaid before the legislative session ended this spring, leaving the future of the program up in the air.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, who opposes Medicaid expansion, has said that if Democrats, who support the expansion and have asked for legislative debate on the subject, continue standing in the way of Medicaid's reauthorization that he would run the program himself.
In recent weeks, legislative Republicans and the Mississippi Republican Party have blitzed the Internet and social media with anti-Obamacare messages ahead of the July 1 Medicaid deadline. The MS GOP has started an online petition against Obamacare while Speaker Philip Gunn, a Clinton Republican, has written op-eds for several local newspapers and blogs.
Hood's opinion this week relies on a similar opinion Hood issued in 2009, which states that "a governor cannot create or re-create a state agency that has been repealed by operation of law, nor can a governor divert funds which may be appropriated to a statutorily repealed agency to some other agency."
The response from Bryant's office was terse. Bryant's spokesman, Mick Bullock, responded to Hood in an email to the Associated Press: "That's all it is, his opinion."