Bryant proposes state help for hospitals

Buy at photos.djournal.com North Mississippi Medical Center is one of the hospitals affected in a major way by cutbacks in state and federal reimbursements.

Buy at photos.djournal.com
North Mississippi Medical Center is one of the hospitals affected in a major way by cutbacks in state and federal reimbursements.

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant is proposing the state give Mississippi hospitals $4.4 million to offset the loss of federal funds due to the Affordable Care Act.

Under the federal health care law, commonly called Obamacare, over a period of years the federal reimbursement to hospitals for treating people with no health care coverage, called disproportionate share hospital (DSH) payments, will be significantly reduced.

The intent of the Affordable Care Act is for the DSH cuts to hospitals to be offset by expanding the Medicaid program. Under the law, that expansion covers people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level or about $15,000 annually for an individual or about $32,000 for a family of four.

But Bryant and the Republican majority in the Legislature have refused to expand Medicaid. Some hospitals and Democrats have complained that the refusal is putting a hardship on Mississippi’s health care providers, particularly hospitals.

Bryant acknowledges that hardship in his budget released earlier this month for the Legislature to consider when it convenes in January.

BRYANT

BRYANT

In his budget narrative, Bryant said the $4.4 million would help hospitals “weather the Obamacare storm.”

The governor said the $4.4 million for hospitals in addition to the $8 million he is proposing to enhance Community Health Centers, which receive government assistance and provide primary care to many low-income people, “should help relieve pressure on hospitals from patients seeking primary care in emergency rooms.”

Studies show people with no insurance and limited ability to pay often seek emergency room treatment.

Some Democrats are continuing to criticize Bryant’s stance on Medicaid expansion.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said the governor is proposing to take state funds away from education and other needs “at the same time he is refusing to accept 100 times that amount of money. Medicaid expansion does not cost the state of Mississippi one red cent, and we have no long-term obligation to continue with the expansion.

“The governor is turning down something approaching one-half billion dollars in federal funds…that can treat sick people and put people to work. At the same time, he is turning down this money, he wants to take $4.4 million out of the state budget to go to the hospitals.”

The $4.4 million would offset one category of federal cuts for the upcoming fiscal year, Bryant said, but he conceded that it would not offset all the federal cuts.

“We appreciate the governor’s acknowledgment that hospitals are in need of financial help to recover from severe cuts to reimbursement on both federal and state levels,” said Tim Moore, chief executive officer of the Mississippi Hospital Association.

Moore added, “Hospitals are finding it very difficult to adjust financially to the almost $3 billion of federal cuts to be experienced by Mississippi hospitals over the next 10 years. Any restoration in funding to our state’s hospitals is truly appreciated. We look forward to working with the governor, his staff and the state Legislature in the months ahead to find creative ways to relieve the financial burdens that have been placed on providers across our great state.”

At least two hospitals, including North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, have announced recent layoffs. In those instances, federal cuts have been cited as one of the reasons for the workforce reductions.

It has been estimated that by expanding Medicaid to cover those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, as is allowed by new federal law, that health care would be provided to about 300,000 primarily working Mississippians.

Democrats have pointed out that according to Bryant’s Medicaid officials the expansion would cost the state $7 million the first year for $70 million in federal funds and over a seven-year period will cost the state a cumulative $450 million while receiving $8.6 billion in federal funds.

Bryant remains adamant that the state cannot afford the expansion.

“Expanding Medicaid…would ultimately require tax increases or cuts to other services the state provides,” he said.

Medicaid currently covers about 645,000 Mississippians – the elderly, disabled, poor pregnant women and poor children.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com

  • Leah Smith Headings

    What hypocrisy! Proposing over $12 Million in spending to cover problems ’caused’ by the Affordable Care Act, while saying the state can’t afford the estimated $7 Million to expand Medicaid, which would bring $70 Million into the state and provide quality, free healthcare to 300,000 working citizens! Failure to expand Medicaid is also probably part of what is causing the monthly cost for insurance to be so high in Mississippi. I have waited for years to finally be able to get health insurance, only to find out the costs for me will be $600 – $800 per month!! Bryant appears to care more about helping businesses then he does about helping people.

  • FrereJocques

    Guv’ner Bryant is making really stupid decisions about this State’s health care. I hope voters remember this at the next election and turn this idiot out.

  • charlie

    I looked up the phrase, “Cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face” in the encyclopedia. The article had Gov. Bryant’s picture as an example.

  • Thile

    So $4.4M for a self-inflicted gunshot wound to one’s foot, then? If you’re scoring at home, nearly two-thirds of the state’s voters pulled the lever for this clown.

  • countrydawg

    “Silly Guv Tilts at Windmills: State Pays Price” would’ve been a more apt headline. Looks like a variation on Philbert’s “Teh Uninsured and Poors Can Go to the ER for Primary Healthcare” strategy. Do these simpletons propose this idiocy with a straight face, or are self-awareness and critical thinking lost on them?

    When hospitals in Tupelo, Hattiesburg, Greenville, Hancock County, and many others shed more staff (or in the case of small-town hospitals, close altogether), those unemployed folks can go to that new mall in Pearl to get jobs. Tell ‘em Phil sent y’all.

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