The Mississippi Speech-Language-Hearing Association (MSHA) had a successful 2011 Legislative Session. MSHA was instrumental in creating the Mississippi Autism Advisory Committee through House Bill 1125 and was able to secure two members of the committee appointed by President Carolyn Higdon. In addition, MSHA played an active role in the K-12 Education appropriation process, helping to fund education at the highest level possible. Finally, MSHA participated in a hearing involving Medicaid eligibility claims, in particular House Bill 777.
Mississippi Autism Advisory Committee
House Bill 1125 was signed into law by Governor Barbour on March 11, 2011. As stated above, MSHA secured “two persons on the committee who are licensed therapists, to be appointed by the President of the Mississippi Speech Language and Hearing Association.” The Department of Mental Health (DMH) had been given the charge to lead and support this committee in performing its duties. President Higdon has been in contact with DMH Executive Director, Ed Legrand, and given him the names of MSHA’s two appointments.
K-12 Education Appropriation
As most of you are aware, funding K-12 in this tough budget year was an intense battle. Thank you to all who made phone calls, wrote letters, and sent emails in support of funding K-12. You were instrumental in achieving a total K-12 budget of $2.251Billion, which includes fully funding the National Board Certified program. Though K-12 was cut roughly $15 Million from last year’s appropriation, the final amount was much better than the $65 Million + Governor Barbour was proposing to cut.
VP for Healthcare, Christine Gibson, did an outstanding job representing MSHA before the House Medicaid Committee in January. The committee held a hearing on House Bill 777, which was designed to require the Division of Medicaid (DOM) to provide administrative hearings on eligibility claims in person, unless the claimant requests to have the hearing by telephone. In addition, the bill would have required DOM when the agency denies a claim of eligibility for benefits to provide in writing to the recipient and to physicians specific reasons for the denial. The bill passed out of the House Medicaid Committee and the full House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the Senate Public Health Committee did not take up House Bill 777.
Another Medicaid bill of note was House Bill 1312. This bill would have limited the number of years that DOM could audit providers to 5 years. In addition, the bill would have required that auditors be qualified and licensed to perform audits, and the auditors would have to abide by the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. This bill was pushed by the Mississippi Hospital Association, and MSHA provided support to the bill. HB 1312 passed the House Medicaid Committee and the full House of Representatives. The Senate Public Health Committee also passed the bill, but then the Chairman of that committee refused to bring the bill up for a vote before the full Senate.