BOBBY HARRISON: Mississippi’s issues not different from the nation’s

BOBBY HARRISON

BOBBY HARRISON

JACKSON

At a recent meeting of the state’s legislative leaders, House Appropriations Chair Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, lamented the fact that the ever increasing spending by the state on Medicaid was taking funds from education – namely higher education.

A simple glance at state budgets for the past decade would reinforce that contention. In Fiscal Year 2003, the state spent $421.8 million on Medicaid. In Fiscal Year 2014, it is estimated the state will spend $840.1 million on Medicaid.

During the same period, spending on education from the kindergarten through university level has remained level at best and has dropped in some instances.

But what the state has experienced with Medicaid is nothing different than what businesses and households across the state have dealt with in regards to health care costs.

The issue is especially difficult for the state because most businesses provide insurance coverage to people who run the gamut – some being especially fit and healthy while others are chronically unhealthy and sick.

Most of the people covered by Medicaid are the sickest of the sick.

The issues in Mississippi are not different than what is faced across the nation.

America spends 17.7 percent of its gross domestic product on health care while no other industrialized country spends more than 12 percent, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, yet Americans visit the doctor less and have a shorter life expectancy than do people in most other industrialized nations.

The per capita health expenditure in the U.S. is $4,887 – $2,400 more than the average of other industrialized nations.

Despite many sobering statistics, there are people willing to take extraordinary measures to ensure our health care system is not changed. They argue that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is being phased in, would make the current system much worse.

Many are specifically concerned that businesses are receiving an exemption from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that regular people are not receiving.

Businesses that employ more than 50 full-time workers are required to provide their workers health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The enactment of that portion of the law has been delayed for a year.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 92 percent of businesses employing between 50 and 100 workers offer health insurance to employees and 97 percent of companies employing more than 100 people offer health coverage.

Workers at those businesses that do not provide coverage still would have access to health care through exchanges.

It is good for the country because it will cut down on the instances of uninsured people going to the emergency room to receive care they cannot afford. The country as a whole – including everyone who has health insurance – helps to pay for the care uninsured people receive in the emergency room.

Plus, having access to health insurance is good for people who have pre-existing conditions and thus have been unable to obtain coverage. Under the new law, insurance companies cannot deny coverage for a pre-existing condition.

But a pre-existing condition is more costly to insurance companies. To help offset those costs, the individual mandate requiring most people to have insurance was incorporated into the law.

Plus, even a otherwise healthy person can become sick or be involved in an accident or wreck and incur costly medical bills.

Will these changes make the current system better?

Some say they will. Others believe they will not.

That fight over America’s health care system has closed government and is running the risk of putting the country in a position where for the first time in history Americans do not pay our collective debt.

Bobby Harrison is the Journal Capitol Bureau chief. Contact him at (601) 353-3119.