Lawmaker: Miss. should evaluate health spending

By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press

JACKSON — Mississippi needs to make a bigger effort to let some people who are elderly, disabled or mentally challenged receive care in their own homes or in assisted living facilities rather than in nursing homes, a key lawmaker said Wednesday.

House Public Health Chairman Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said the care would be less expensive and some of the people would be happier.

“We’ve got to start thinking about a different approach and a redesign to funding health care,” Holland said during a committee meeting at the Capitol.

Holland also said he expects resistance from nursing home operators because of the big money involved.

Phyllis Williams, deputy administrator of health services for the state Division of Medicaid, said Wednesday that the program spent $708 million on nursing home care during the fiscal year that ended last June 30. She said the annual cost of keeping a Medicaid recipient in a nursing home is about $50,000 to $55,000.

Williams said the state spent $109 million last fiscal year on home and community-based services, at an average cost of $10,000 per person.

With limited time for the committee meeting, no representatives of nursing homes were asked to speak.

Mary Troupe of the Coalition for Citizens With Disabilities said after the meeting that some people with physical challenges are being sent to nursing homes for long-term care when they’d be better off receiving help in their own homes. She’s been pushing for years for Mississippi to move toward more home services or assisted-living facilities.

“I feel like it’s ‘Groundhog Day,'” Troupe said, referring to a movie where a man lives the same day repeatedly. “We’ve been talking about this so many years. We need to start moving forward.”

Gov. Haley Barbour said he wants to close some mental health facilities and move patients to home and community-based services, as other states have been doing for years. He said the state would save money and patients would be better served.