Hood: $33 million settlement could help plug budget holes

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Attorney General Jim Hood

The state general fund will get a $33 million boost right in the middle of the legislative session, the result of a legal settlement over inflated drug prices.

More than $8.5 million will go towards reimbursing the Division of Medicaid, the agency that the drug company defrauded, which is currently facing a $24 million deficit.

Earlier this month the Mississippi Supreme Court found that Watson Inc., a pharmaceutical manufacturer, defrauded the state Medicaid program of over $7 million by overcharging for drugs. The $33 million settlement includes civil penalties, punitive and compensatory damages.

Attorney General Jim Hood said this settlement would hit the state general fund at a time when legislators are struggling to find cover for several budget shortfalls.

“What recoveries we’ve been lucky enough to come up with have helped at the right times (with) that budget that they’ve caused to crash over there by giving all our money away in tax cuts to large out of state corporations. You know, we bailed them out over there,” Hood said, referring to actions of the Legislature in recent years.

The Division of Medicaid is not the only agency with a multi-million deficit this session. The Division of Child Protection Services is grappling with a $12 million shortfall. Last week, House Appropriations Chairman John Read said he was unsure how the Legislature would close that gap.

“But we’re going to have to come up with it,” Read said of funds needed to shore up the deficit.

The attorney general’s office has recovered a total of $224 million in similar litigation against drug companies since 2004, Hood said.

Contributing: Kayleigh Skinner