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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) _ Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed a bill Wednesday that will help plug a $158 million deficit in the state Medicaid program for the needy, aged and disabled.

The compromise, reached earlier Wednesday by state lawmakers, would increase prescription co-payments to $3 from $1 for the state's 650,000 Medicaid recipients. It also proposed a 5 percent cut in payments to doctors, hospitals and most other providers.

The bulk of the money, $108 million, would come from the state's settlement with tobacco companies.

Because the compromise would cover all but $29.5 million of the Medicaid deficit, Musgrove said more cuts in services were likely unless lawmakers increased funding.

The program ran out of money late last week for the current fiscal year ending June 30. That prompted warnings that doctors, hospitals and others might not be paid.

Projections for the coming fiscal year put the shortfall between $157 million and $288 million.

``Somebody's got to get us out of this quagmire that we're in,'' said state Rep. Bobby Moody, chairman of the House Public Health and Welfare Committee.

Lawmakers, who struggled for weeks to find a compromise, earlier proposed a $1 per prescription assessment. That and other fees were dropped after pharmacists and doctors protested.

Rep. Omeria Scott criticized the increased out-of-pocket expenses recipients would pay: ``You want to see them scratching your (campaign) picture down from off to the pole? They're going to be burning us in effigy.''

Forty-five states are having Medicaid funding problems this year, according to the National Governors Association. Some states are considering more closely managing prescription costs while others want to increase patients' out-of-pocket expenses.


On the Net:

Mississippi Legislature http://www.ls.state.ms.us