Hospital system says it’s hurt by lack of Medicaid expansion

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A county-owned Mississippi hospital system that wants to put itself up for sale says one of its biggest financial challenges is the decision of state officials not to expand Medicaid to provide insurance coverage for the working poor.

“Mississippi is one of 12 states that has not enacted Medicaid expansion, which means the amount of revenue that would have flowed to our state’s health care systems is expected to decrease, which will have a significant impact. about hospitals like Singing River that provide important care to the underinsured and uninsured. populations,” the Singing River Health System states in a website that promotes its reasons for seeking new property.

The Singing River Health System is owned by coastal Jackson County. The system operates hospitals in Pascagoula, Gulfport and Ocean Springs. It also has about three dozen clinics and more than 3,500 employees. System administrators announced on June 1 that they had voted to put it up for sale or seek a merger with another health system.

For years, Republican Governor Tate Reeves and leaders of the Republican-controlled Mississippi Legislature have rejected proposals to expand Medicaid, a government health insurance program funded by federal and state governments. Although the federal government would pay most of the tab for the expansion and it would pump billions into the state, Reeves and others have repeatedly said they don’t want to enroll more people. in the public program.

As part of the health care overhaul that then-President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010, states have the ability to extend Medicaid to low-income workers whose jobs don’t provide health insurance. private.

Even without expansion, Mississippi’s Medicaid enrollment has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a state of about 3 million people, just over 670,000 people were enrolled in Medicaid in March 2020, the first month that COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Mississippi. Registrations were just over 814,000 last month.

Singing River Health System also says on its website that it faces financial challenges because Mississippi has a high poverty rate and a large number of uninsured residents.

Jackson County supervisors decided Monday to hold a public hearing Aug. 17 into the future of the Singing River health system, media reported. A question about selling the system would come to a countywide vote, possibly as early as November, if at least 1,500 people sign a petition calling for an election.

Supervisors said that if the hospital system is not sold, Jackson County would likely need substantial tax increases to keep the Singing River health system running.

Singing River officials told supervisors the system needed $287 million over the next five years to cover rising costs, the Sun Herald reported. Supervisor Ken Taylor said the amount needed to cover the hospital’s projected costs would exceed legal limits on how much the county can raise in taxes each year.

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