May 9, 2013 10:29:53 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant says he thinks he can run Medicaid even if lawmakers don't reauthorize the program or set its budget by the time the state's new fiscal year starts July 1.
"As head of the Governor's Division of Medicaid, I will do all I can to continue and to provide Medicaid to the citizens who qualify in the state of Mississippi," Bryant said Wednesday. "That is my legal argument. If someone wants to challenge me in court, what is their argument?"
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported Bryant's remarks and said he spoke about Medicaid after taking part in a tourism event at the state Capitol.
Bryant appoints the Medicaid director and said he has the authority to keep the program operating after the new fiscal year begins. He also said it's his job to make sure Medicaid recipients who live in nursing homes are not "thrown out on the street."
Lawmakers ended their three-month regular session last month without reauthorizing or funding Medicaid, a federal-state health care program for the needy, aged, blind and disabled.
Attorney General Jim Hood believes a governor cannot unilaterally run a state agency, Hood spokeswoman Jan Schaefer said. She cited a previous fight over the Department of Human Services. After lawmakers failed to reauthorize DHS for the year that began July 1, 2004, Hood persuaded a chancery judge to keep the agency alive. The judge appointed then-Gov. Haley Barbour and the DHS executive director to act as administrators for it.