Hospitals get tax-cut assurance in House legislation

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Mississippi’s approximately 100 hospitals could potentially see their taxes reduced under legislation that passed the state House on Wednesday.
The proposal, offered as an amendment by Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, would call for the hospitals’ taxes to be cut by the amount their payments were reduced for treating Medicaid patients.
Gov. Phil Bryant has proposed changing the method of reimbursing hospitals for treating Medicaid patients. Currently, hospitals are reimbursed on a per diem basis. Under the proposed change, hospitals would be reimbursed based on the services provided.
And it would be consistent throughout the state. For instance, reimbursement for a surgery on a ruptured disc would be the same in Tupelo as it would be in Hattiesburg.
It’s estimated the change in the reimbursement rate would save the state Medicaid program $65 million. But Brown argued that when a $90 million tax was levied on the hospitals three years ago at the behest of Gov. Haley Barbour, a commitment was made not to decrease their reimbursement rate for treating Medicaid patients.
Under Brown’s amendment, if the reimbursement rate was reduced $65 million, the tax would be cut that much. The amendment passed 60-58 even though it was opposed by the Republican leadership.
Medicaid officials had said they would provide information to legislators on how the new reimbursement rate would impact each hospital. But Brown said thus far Medicaid had not provided the information.
House Medicaid Committee Chair Bobby Howell, R-Kilmichael, argued against the amendment, but said, “we will not cut the reimbursement level.”
Howell also argued that Mississippi hospitals are reimbursed at a much higher level than those in surrounding states.
Mississippi hospitals have maintained that they provide much more uncompensated care for people with no type of health insurance than they receive in Medicaid reimbursements.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com