Mississippi has lost its only burn center. Most of the Delta no longer has a hospital where women can give birth. And the state’s top health official warned that there are at least six other hospitals across the state that are on the verge of bankruptcy.
To say Mississippi is facing a health care crisis doesn’t seem to adequately capture our current reality.
Several factors led us to this point, but nothing has had a larger impact than the loss of federal dollars hospitals use to offset losses from care provided to uninsured patients. That money started shrinking more than a decade ago with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. It was to be offset by expanding Medicaid coverage to the working poor.
Thirty-eight states have done just that. In every one of those states, the results have been positive: increased jobs, more revenue generated, fewer hospital closures and — most importantly — more people who can afford health care.
But in Mississippi, two key state leaders continue to oppose Medicaid expansion. Gov. Tate Reeves runs out tired talking points about Obamacare, socialized medicine and bankrupting the state. House Speaker Philip Gunn simply says he hasn’t heard anybody really asking for Medicaid expansion.
Both stances are demonstrably false.
Many of those 38 states that have expanded Medicaid are led by Republican governors and Legislatures. They did the cost-benefit analysis, and they made the wise decision.
The state’s own economists have repeatedly run the numbers, and they show clear benefits if the state expands: up to $44 million in additional revenues and approximately 11,000 new jobs over the next decade.
The Mississippi Hospital Association has been extremely vocal about the need for Medicaid expansion. In fact, they have proposed a way to pay for it through their existing members.
The expansion would be for working Mississippians who are paying taxes and giving to the system. These are people who are too poor to qualify for subsidized plans through the ACA exchange but still make too much to qualify for Medicaid. They are falling through the cracks, the very cracks that are causing our hospitals to crumble.
The state just invested nearly $250 million in a private company to create 1,000 new jobs as part of a larger $2.5 billion investment.
The state economist estimated Mississippi would need to spend between $180 million and $210 million for Medicaid expansion, which he also said would be more than covered by savings to the state and the MSHA has agreed to pay on the front end. The return would be an estimated 11,000 new jobs on top of the jobs saved at existing hospitals facing shutdown.
If the Columbus economic development project was a good deal, and we believe it probably is, then Medicaid expansion is a far greater one.
And while jobs are important, don’t forget the thousands of hard-working Mississippians who would then have access to affordable health care. They are the true concern here. Despite all the politics, let’s not lose focus on our neighbors who are hurting — in some cases dying — because our health care system is in crisis.
Daily Journal, Nov. 5
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