Facing possibility with no budget

Here is a rundown on how some segments are handling the possibility that the state will not have a budget for the new fiscal year, which begins Wednesday:
“We’re going to keep taking of Medicaid patients whether we get paid or not. Hopefully they will figure out something fast, because we can’t do that very long with financial issues,” said John Heer, chief executive of North Mississippi Health Services – which includes hospitals in Tupelo, Iuka, Pontotoc, West Point, Eupora and Hamilton, Ala.
If there’s no budget agreement, Magnolia Regional Health Center will halt construction, institute a hiring freeze on new positions and have public notification of responsibility of payment. The Corinth hospital is anticipating more people would end up at the emergency department.
The bigger issue will be people with Medicaid delaying health care and ending up very sick with problems that would have been easier and less expensive to treat at an earlier stage, Heer said.
Medical clinics
Eddie Barber, executive director of Cardiology Associates of North Mississippi, said no patient will be denied care. “Our assumption is that if we aren’t going to get paid now, we’ll get paid later,” he said.
The real problems will come when Medicaid reboots and has to work through a backlog of claims. “It will be an administrative nightmare for everyone involved,” he said.
Access Family Health, which has centers in Tupelo, Smithville, Houlka and Tremont, also will keep seeing patients.
“We are a community health center; we’re a safety net,” said Executive Director Marilyn Sumerford. “We don’t plan to alter our services unless it continues long term.”
The clinics will be able to provide discounted medications, but it will still be more expensive than Medicaid and the program designed for the uninsured isn’t bottomless.
“We would deplete our pharmacy budget pretty quickly,” Sumerford said.
K-12 schools
Public schools have some breathing room. Districts receive their state money on the 20th of the month. As long as the budget standoff is resolved before July 20, districts should not affected by funding problems.
However, it does create problems as districts try to finalize budgets ahead of an Aug. 15 deadline.
“Right now we’re sound financially,” said Lee County Schools Superintendent Mike Scott. “If it gets on to the beginning of the school year, we’re going to have problems.”
Tupelo Public School District is one of 34 districts in the state waiting for the budget details to issue contracts for teachers.
“If they don’t go too far, we’ll be OK,” said Tupelo Superintendent Randy McCoy.
On campus
Mike McGrevey, vice president for finance and administration at Mississippi State University, said that almost all work at the institution has been identified as “mission essential” and could not be sacrificed for a state budget gridlock.
“I don’t know how we could shut down operations,” McGrevey said. “We have contractual obligations to continue classes, because we have accepted tuition from students to teach them.” Some $200 million in research contracts also must be fulfilled – especially animal-based research in which faculty members have often invested years of work. Construction already under contract must also continue unabated, he said.

Michaela GibsonMorris/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio