By Tommy Reynolds
The State of Mississippi has an important choice to make this legislative session: whether or not our state accepts almost $1 billion in federal funds to provide approximately 300,000 uninsured Mississippians with health care coverage. This coverage would come through federal funds made available to the states through the Medicaid expansion opportunity.
If our state refuses to accept the federal monies set aside for us through the Medicaid Program expansion, Mississippi hospitals stand to lose millions of dollars they currently receive, with no funds to replace their losses.
Hospitals now receive monies from a federal program called the Dispropor-tionate Share Hospital Adjustment Reimburse-ment, or “DSH” payments. Our local hospitals receive funds from this program to reimburse some of the expenses they incur for taking care of patients who have no insurance and cannot pay the full cost of their treatment. Under new federal healthcare legislation, this program will be drastically reduced, and many of our local hospitals will lose a significant source of income.
If the state accepts the approximately $1 billion from the Medicaid expansion opportunity, it will help to ensure that local hospitals will receive reimbursement for patients who have no other insurance and cannot pay the full tab. Hospitals that have a large share of low-income patients qualify for these payments. Most of our local hospitals are in this category.
Last year, qualifying hospitals in Mississippi were reimbursed $210 million in DSH payments for services they provided to people without health insurance or other ways to pay their bills. Tallahatchie General Hospit-al and Clinic, for example, were reimbursed approximately $1.6 million in the most recent year reported. Major nearby hospitals, such as the Baptist Memorial Hospital in DeSoto County, reimbursed over $14 million, and Baptist Memorial in Oxford, $500,000 in the same period, would suffer serious financial losses without the Medicaid expansion.
I am concerned that if our hospitals lose these DSH funds, and we do not accept federal Medicaid expansion funding to cover these patients, our hospitals will suffer great financial hardships. These institutions provide tremendous employment and economic benefit in our counties and communities and also are vital pillars of our healthcare delivery network.
For example, Yalobusha General Hospital currently employs approximately 320 people and provides a 11-million dollar annual payroll.
I do not want our state to be in the situation where our local people have to drive long distances before they have access to hospital care for their loved ones. This may be the case if our hospitals lose DSH funds and there are no funds to replace this funding source.
If the state chooses to accept the opportunity for Medicaid expansion, the federal government will pick up 100 percent of the cost from 2014 through 2016, and will pick up 90 percent of the cost in 2020 and thereafter. This is a much more favorable match to our state than we currently receive on Medi-caid reimbursement, which is approximately 73 cents for every 27 cents we provide.
There are economic studies that show if the state accepts the federal funds for Medicaid expansion, over 9,000 healthcare jobs would be created here during the first years of the expansion. This would include nurses and other healthcare professionals needed to provide care in our state.
It is a fact that we have the highest doctor-to-patient and healthcare provider-to-patient ratios in the nation, and I would certainly like to see more Mississippians in the healthcare field providing care to our citizens.
I do not see any reason for Mississippi to turn down this opportunity to stabilize our healthcare industry and provide much-needed jobs and economic stability to our local communities.
I look forward to hearing from you on this or any other issue before the Legis-lature. Please email me at email@example.com or call me at (662) 647-3203.