Health Care

What the experts say about expanding Medicaid

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Here’s what experts say about expanding Medicaid in Mississippi

Note: This article is part of Mississippi Today’s ongoing Mississippi Crisis project. Read more about the project by clicking here.

Perhaps no other federal- policy has been studied and debated more than expansion per the federal Affordable Care Act, including its potential impact on Mississippi — one of just 12 states that has not expanded the program.

A Kaiser Family Foundation report notes there have been more than 400 studies on the topic nationwide. And in Mississippi, the poorest and unhealthiest state in the nation, numerous studies have focused on what expansion would mean. A majority project net positive benefits economically, health-wise or both.

READ MORE: What is Medicaid expansion, really? Answers to common questions.

Expansion would mean someone making $18,754 a year (138% of the poverty level) would be eligible for health care coverage through the federal-state program. The federal government would pay 90% of the costs for those covered, with the state paying 10%.

When Medicaid expansion began Jan. 1, 2014, the federal government paid 100% of the costs, stepped down to 90% over years. Mississippi missed out on the larger matching rates from the federal government.

But under the recent American Rescue Plan, the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid have been offered a financial incentive to do so. That equates to more than $700 million for Mississippi, and more recent studies have factored in those incentives.

The studies on Medicaid expansion in Mississippi

Mississippi University Research Center/IHL, 2021: This analysis of the fiscal and economic impact of expansion was authored by state Economist Corey Miller and senior Economist Sondra Collins. It found expansion would add about 230,000 adults to Mississippi’s Medicaid rolls between 2022 and 2027. It would produce an average of 11,000 new jobs a year during that time and provide an additional $44 million a year to the state general fund.

The study found that expansion would increase the state’s gross domestic product by more than $700 million a year over five years, increase personal income between $539 million and $812 during the same period and increase the state’s population between 3,300 and 11,500 annually over the same period.

Commonwealth Fund study, 2021: The study estimates expansion would cost the state $956 million over five years, while generating $1.2 billion in savings for a net gain to state coffers of $212 million. The study estimates expansion would provide coverage for about 230,000 adults.

Urban Institute/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national study, 2020: This was a study of the impact of expansion on the then 15 states that had not expanded Medicaid. The study projected that expansion in Mississippi would bring an increase of 207,000 enrollees and an increase in state Medicaid costs of $177 million a year, but did not attempt to calculate any increased revenues or savings.

Perryman Group study of Mississippi Cares plan, 2019: This was a study of the Mississippi Hospital Association’s “Mississippi Cares” alternative expansion plan. MHA proposed creating a public-private partnership, expanding eligibility to adults earning up to 138% of the poverty level, but imposing a $20 a month premium on enrollees and a $100 copay for non-emergency use of hospital emergency rooms. Hospitals would cover remaining state costs. The Perryman study projected the plan would create an additional 36,000 jobs a year on average for the first 11 years and provide an increase in state tax revenue, a decrease in private insurance premiums and a reduction in uncompensated care costs of $252 million a year. The plan also included a requirement that unemployed beneficiaries enroll in job training or education programs.

University of Alabama Birmingham study for Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, 2013: This study, by UAB’s Department of Health Care Organization and policy, modeled the impact of expansion on enrollment, state and federal costs, employment and state tax revenue from 2014 to 2020. It projected expansion would result in 212,362 more enrollees by 2020, would generate 19,318 additional jobs in 2020, with $200 million in additional state and local tax revenue. It projected an overall state budget savings of $34 million in 2020 and projected expansion would produce $2 billion in economic activity annually.

Kaiser Foundation/Urban Institute national study, 2012: This study projected the effect of expansion on costs and enrollment nationally and by state from 2013 to 2022. The study projected expansion in Mississippi would cost the state about $1 billion for the period, and result in an additional 231,000 enrollees. The study listed the additional costs without estimates of any savings or increases in tax revenues.

Mississippi University Research Center/IHL, 2012: This study projected the impact of expansion on Medicaid costs, enrollment, and net economic impact on the state budget from 2014-2025. The study used three scenarios, high, medium and low participation, predicting that high participation of an additional 310,000 enrollees was most likely. It predicted the state’s cost of expansion would be about $118 million by 2020, but that expansion would create about 9,000 new jobs a year and have a net positive impact on the state budget of nearly $65 million by 2020.

Milliman Inc. study, 2010, 2012: The Mississippi Division of Medicaid contracted this analysis of Mississippi Medicaid’s budget exposure to the ACA from fiscal 2011-2020, and it was updated in 2012 and is still referred to frequently by opponents of expansion. The report modeled three scenarios – low, moderate and high enrollee increases and said moderate or low scenarios were most likely. The report projected under the moderate scenario that 243,000 additional adults and 67,000 more children would enroll and the state share of Medicaid costs would increase by $1.26 billion over the time period, including costs for current and additional enrollees. It estimated that by fiscal 2020, the state would see increased costs of $280 million a year.

The 2012 report modeled enrollment and costs from fiscal 2014-2020 under various scenarios. Under the higher enrollment scenario, it estimated expansion would cost the state $155 million a year by 2020. It focused on the Medicaid budget and did not estimate any cost offsets from other programs or from additional tax revenue.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

FAQ: Medicaid expansion, what is it, really?

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Q&A: What is Medicaid expansion, really?

Note: This article is part of Mississippi Today’s ongoing Mississippi Crisis project. Read more about the project by clicking here.

The inner workings of , a federal program intended to provide health coverage to low-income Americans, are wonky and incredibly difficult to understand.

You’ve probably heard the term “Medicaid expansion,” words that have become weaponized by opportunistic politicians, used as a smoke screen to avoid talking earnestly about an extension of the existing federal program that provides even more people with basic health care coverage. 

As Mississippi’s health care crisis continues, we’ve compiled answers to some frequently asked questions to show the direct effects of the policy, how it could change lives across the state, and what the state could stand to gain by passing it.

Click on questions below to jump to answers, or scroll down to see it all.

Click to jump to a specific question

What is Medicaid? 

Medicaid is a federal program that provides health coverage to millions of people in the U.S., including low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. States administer the program, which is funded by both states and the federal government. Mississippi currently participates in the traditional Medicaid program.

What is Medicaid expansion? 

Medicaid expansion is a special provision created under President Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act that aims to allow more low-income Americans to be covered by the program and decrease the number of uninsured people. Mississippi is one of 12 states that has not opted into the expansion program. In states that have chosen to expand, Medicaid eligibility is extended to adults up to age 64 who have incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level – or about $25,000 for a family of two. 

Currently in Mississippi, non-disabled adults without children generally never qualify for the program, and the income requirements are very stringent for those who are parents ($4,608 in annual earnings for a family of three). 

How many additional people would be insured if Mississippi expanded Medicaid?

Studies have estimated Medicaid expansion in Mississippi would cover over 200,000 additional people. Other states that have expanded have seen a decline in uninsured people – a desired outcome in Mississippi, which ranks 6th in the nation for the percentage of uninsured people. 

What would the economic impact of Medicaid expansion be?

Estimates show Medicaid expansion would bring in more than $1 billion in new revenue each year. Multiple studies have shown Medicaid expansion would save the state money by reducing uncompensated care costs for hospitals, reducing chronic illness through preventive care, and that it would help the by creating thousands of jobs and the “multiplier effect” of the federal dollars. Studies by state economists have shown it would, over time, increase the state’s GDP and population. 

What are the mechanisms that could be used in Mississippi to expand Medicaid? 

Expansion of Medicaid in Mississippi would require action by the state , and approval by the governor.

Who is in favor of Medicaid expansion and why?

Many leaders and physicians in the medical community favor Medicaid expansion because of the financial benefits their institutions would reap. Health care organizations like the Mississippi State Medical Association, Mississippi Hospital Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and countless others support expansion. And top business leaders and organizations like the Delta Council have publicly supported Medicaid expansion because of the broader economic benefits it would create. 

Democrats in the Legislature, who wield little power and influence over major policymaking decisions, and scores of other Democratic elected officials have publicly supported Medicaid expansion for years. Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, the leader of the state Senate, has repeatedly highlighted the need for health care for working people, though he stops short of advocating for Medicaid expansion. Several other legislative Republicans and even Republican statewide candidates in recent elections have publicly supported expansion, but none have succeeded in starting earnest debate in the Legislature.

Who opposes Medicaid expansion and why? 

Top Republican leaders in the state, led by Gov. Tate Reeves and Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, have long rejected Medicaid expansion. Many of the arguments against expansion have been overtly political and partisan — opposition against expanding “Obamacare,” which many Republicans opposed from the start. Others are more philosophical arguments against increasing any large government program or that health care should be done through the private sector. But two of the main arguments from Mississippi elected leaders against it have been that the state budget cannot afford it and that the federal government will one day stop paying the largest share and leave state taxpayers holding the bag.

What has happened in other states that have expanded Medicaid?

Other states that have expanded Medicaid have seen a large drop in uncompensated care costs – the costs that hospitals must cover themselves to care for uninsured patients. Louisiana, our neighbor that expanded Medicaid in 2016, saw a 55% decrease in uncompensated care costs for rural hospitals after expanding — and a substantial drop in mortality rates.

Why do states have the choice of whether to participate in Medicaid expansion? 

The in 2012 issued a decision in a case that challenged the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, the sweeping health care reform law enacted in 2010 that aimed to make health insurance more affordable. One major tenet of the law was to expand Medicaid to cover more people. The high court upheld the law in general, but said that the federal government could not mandate that states expand Medicaid. Based on that portion of the ruling, 12 states, including Mississippi, have not expanded Medicaid. In Mississippi, the few times the issue of Medicaid expansion has been before either full chamber of the Legislature is when Democratic members have offered amendments to other Medicaid-related bills. The Republican majorities have regularly voted down those amendments.

How much do Mississippi hospitals pay to care for people who don’t have insurance or Medicaid? 

The cost of uninsured care for calendar year 2021 is estimated to be $482 million. The cost of total uncompensated care (uninsured plus others who don’t pay the full balance) is $594 million. Hospitals must cover these costs themselves, often leading to budget woes that can close a hospital for good or require drastic cuts in health services offered. The effects of this uncompensated care have only worsened as the pandemic and the accompanying high labor costs have financially strained hospitals. Medicaid expansion would flow millions per year directly to hospitals to help them cover these costs.

Is our current Medicaid program free? Who qualifies for it? 

Medicaid is free for beneficiaries and funded by the federal and state governments. Currently in Mississippi, several categories of people qualify for Medicaid:

  • Infants and children who live in low-income families
  • Uninsured children whose family income does not exceed 209% of the federal poverty level will qualify for Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Parents and caretakers of minor children who live in the home. The parents must be without the support of one or both parents due to disability, , or continued absence or who are unemployed or have very low income. To qualify, the parent or caretaker must cooperate with child support enforcement requirements for each child whose parent is absent from the home.
  • Pregnant women with income under 194% of the federal poverty level. These women will receive benefits for two months postpartum and are then put on the family planning waiver.
  • Pregnant women under 19 years old automatically qualify for pregnancy Medicaid.
  • Disabled children who require a level of care typically provided in a hospital or long term care facility but are living at home. 
  • Working disabled: Adults whose income is below a certain level and who work at least 40 hours per month. 
  • Aged, blind or disabled people who received Supplemental Security Income (SSI), those who formerly received SSI, and those residing in a nursing facility or participating in a Home and Community Based Services Waiver Program.

How much does it cost the state and taxpayers to provide our current Medicaid program? 

Medicaid expenditures are based on usage. The more Medicaid beneficiaries see health care providers for treatments, the greater the cost. For the current fiscal year, the Legislature has appropriated $902 million in state funds for the Division of Medicaid and expects to receive $5.79 billion in federal funds. Mississippi, as the nation’s poorest state, receives the best matching rate with the federal government currently paying 84.5% of the health care costs. The state pays the rest. If not for the COVID-19 emergency that is slated to remain into effect until early in 2023, the federal government would be providing Mississippi a 77.86% matching rate. But currently, the federal government pays 90% of the health care costs for those covered through Medicaid expansion. In addition, the federal government would provide non-expansion states a two-year incentive to opt into Medicaid expansion. For Mississippi that would result in more than $600 million in federal funds over two years.

What services are covered under the current Medicaid program? 

Full Medicaid benefits cover office visits, family planning services, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, prescription drugs, eyeglasses, long term care services and inpatient psychiatric services. Medicaid will also provide transportation to eligible beneficiaries if they do not have other means of getting to medical appointments. 

What are the differences between traditional Medicaid and expanded Medicaid?

The difference is more people are eligible under expanded Medicaid. Expansion would mean people earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level — or $25,000 for a family of two — would qualify for benefits. This would mostly include low-income, able-bodied parents; low-income adults without children; and many low-income individuals with chronic mental illness or disabilities who struggle to maintain well-paying jobs but do not currently meet disability requirements for Medicaid.

What is postpartum Medicaid and what is the debate about extending it?

Federal law requires states to provide pregnancy-related Medicaid coverage through 60 days postpartum, but many women, particularly in Mississippi and other non-expansion states, lose coverage at that point aside from basic family planning services and birth control. Health professionals and advocates have argued Mississippi needs to extend that coverage to a year postpartum like 34 other states have done. They say this will provide much-needed improvements in health outcome for mothers and babies in the state, where 60% of births are covered by Medicaid.  

Despite bipartisan support for extending coverage for the tens of thousands of moms covered by Medicaid in Mississippi in the Senate, Speaker of the House Philip Gunn killed the bill in the 2022 legislative session and remains opposed. He cites his opposition to Medicaid expansion, but the legislation would not have expanded Medicaid eligibility – it would’ve extended coverage for people who already qualify.

Mississippi and Wyoming are now the only two states with neither extended postpartum coverage nor Medicaid expansion.

What is CHIP and how is it different from Medicaid?

CHIP stands for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and provides health coverage for uninsured children up to 19 years old and whose family income does not exceed 209% of the federal poverty level.   

The coverage, unlike Medicaid for adults, includes dental care as well as medical services. 

The state recently added mental health coverage as a mandatory benefit – including services necessary to prevent, diagnose and treat a broad range of mental health symptoms and disorders.

What is the history of Medicaid?

The U.S. Congress, at the behest of President Lyndon Johnson, approved Medicaid in 1965 to offer a safety net health coverage for poor Americans. Under the landmark legislation, the federal government and the states would share in paying the costs of the program. Mississippi was one of the last states to opt into the traditional Medicaid program during a 1969 special session. Mississippi Gov. John Bell Williams, who called the special session, voted against the Medicaid program as a member of Congress. As governor, Williams said it would benefit Mississippi to opt into the Medicaid program.

How many people in Mississippi are on Medicaid now?

As of July 2021, about 797,000 were enrolled in either full-benefit Medicaid coverage or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Memorial Health System helps out American Red Cross

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www.wxxv25.com – Jazell Ladner – 2022-10-26 17:30:49

Memorial providers and staff did their part today to help save more lives, thanks to the Red Cross.

The American Red Cross partners with Memorial Health System on a regular basis and every 56 days from the previous drive at the hospital, Memorial gives the Red Cross a full day to get donations from employees.

In the middle of a shortage, both Red Cross and Memorial feel it is best to keep the tradition going since health care providers understand the critical need for blood supply.

According to Denise Smith, the senior account manager of the American Red…

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Sensing long-term challenges, Singing River seeks buyer

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Singing River hospital is not on the brink of financial collapse. So why is it seeking a buyer?

Editor’s note: This story was reported and published in a collaboration between Mississippi Today and the Sun Herald. Isabelle Taft reported for Mississippi Today and Gautama Mehta reported for the Sun Herald.

– Unlike other Mississippi hospitals, Health System is not facing an immediate financial crisis – and that’s exactly why its leaders say they need to find a buyer. 

The roughly 700-bed system, based in Jackson County on the Coast, came through the pandemic in decent shape, with revenue up in 2021. But the long-term forces buffeting Singing River and small hospitals around the country mean the future is still dark. 

Costs are rising, especially for nursing staff. The hospital system needs to make improvements to facilities and equipment after years of underspending. Singing River has almost no leverage to increase payments from the ’s dominant commercial insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi. And in part because Mississippi has refused to expand , a significant number of the system’s patients have no insurance, meaning Singing River doesn’t get paid for their care. 

Hospital leaders say they need a bigger chain to take over so they can benefit from economies of scale and greater negotiating power with suppliers and insurers. If they wait until a crisis point, they’ll have less leverage and possibly fewer interested buyers. 

“We’re coming at it now at a place of strength,” CEO Tiffany Murdock told a community group in the town of Hurley in August. “And in five years, I can’t promise you the same thing.”

It’s the latest demonstration of a trend with potentially troubling consequences for patients: In the world of American hospitals, only the huge survive. 

From 2005 to 2017, the share of hospitals around the country that are part of a larger system rose from 53% to 66%

In Mississippi, a 2017 merger made Baptist Memorial the largest hospital system in the state. The University of Mississippi Medical Center has expanded its footprint to Grenada, Holmes County, and the Gulf Coast and is bidding to lease hospitals in the Mississippi Delta. Rush Health Systems, which owns seven hospitals in east Mississippi and west Alabama, this year merged with Ochsner, the Louisiana-based system Singing River leaders see as their likely buyer. In 2019, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady, also based in Louisiana, acquired St. Dominic Memorial Hospital in Jackson.

State and locally owned hospitals like Singing River are a fading model. The American Hospital Association reports that, of the country’s 6,100 hospitals, about 950 are owned by local governments, down from 1,130 in 2008

The potential downside of spending years trying to fight massive economic forces – and ending up in a much weaker negotiating position with a potential buyer – is clear enough in Mississippi. Hospitals like Greenwood Leflore are struggling to stay afloat long enough to find a savior or be forced to close their doors. 

A growing body of research shows hospital consolidation usually increases costs for consumers by reducing competition. And despite hospital leaders’ claims about the resource benefits of joining a larger chain, research also suggests it doesn’t improve outcomes for patients. 

“We know that consolidation is going to increase prices and potentially decrease access to care,” said Christopher Whaley, a health economist at RAND Corporation. “But if the alternative is that the hospital or physician group goes out of business and exits the market entirely, then maybe that’s a tradeoff we have to make.”

Tiffany Murdock, CEO of Singing River Health System, speaks during a public hearing over the potential sale of Singing River Health System during a Jackson County Board of Supervisors meeting in on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

While small hospitals like Singing River look for buyers, bigger players like Ochsner – one of the biggest hospital systems in the Gulf South – have been looking for new acquisitions. 

In 2020, Ochsner and Singing River announced a strategic partnership, and Singing River acquired Garden Park Medical Center in , rebranding it as Singing River Gulfport. During Hurricane Ida, the partnership allowed Ochsner patients in hard-hit southeast Louisiana to move to the Gulfport hospital. 

Corwin Harper, Ochsner CEO for Northshore and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, said expanding into Mississippi makes sense in part because so many Mississippians already use Louisiana health care facilities, and the states face similar issues with workforce recruitment. 

“With Ochsner being the largest health system in Louisiana, it’s almost a natural migration for people to access the resources that Ochsner has,” he said. 

Murdock, a registered nurse whose career in hospital administration has included stops in California and Oregon, was named the administrator of Singing River Gulfport. When former CEO Lee Bond stepped down earlier this year, Murdock was named interim CEO of the health system and then CEO. She is the first woman to hold the position.

In June, the hospital trustees voted to pursue a sale to a “like-minded hospital organization,” though Ochsner is generally the only name that comes up in Jackson County. 

A report by the firm Raymond James found that while the hospital’s revenue had rebounded in 2021, rising expenses had cut margins. The hospital sees a high rate of uninsured patients, and federal payments to care for them are dropping. And as a small system, it has little opportunity to access loans or to increase cash flow by negotiating with insurers, since most of its patients are on Medicaid or Medicare and the commercial market is dominated by Blue Cross. 

“It’s a nationwide issue,” Ryan , executive director of the Mississippi Rural Health Association, said of hospitals’ financial struggles. “But it is especially important here because we are a more poor state. Our hospitals are in the red, like on the verge of closure in a critical state, and it’s not because our hospitals are doing anything wrong or there’s anything wrong with Mississippi. It’s just because we’re a poor state and we have less money to go around.”

The pandemic also highlighted the benefits of scale. 

“We were spending, you know, a nickel on a surgical mask five years ago when during the height of COVID, we’re spending $5 a mask and buying thousands of masks,” Murdock said at the community meeting in Hurley.

Ochsner, by contrast, built its own plant to make personal protective equipment in Lafayette. 

But scale can come with a loss of local autonomy.

Ochsner also has a lease agreement with Hancock Medical Center on the Coast. In May, Ochsner closed the labor and delivery unit at the hospital, citing the low number of deliveries that made it hard to operate the unit safely. That left the county without a single labor and delivery unit and frustrated some Hancock County residents and leaders. 

Over the summer, a Singing River retiree named Irby Tillman appeared poised to derail hospital executives’ plans. 

Under Mississippi law, anyone can force a referendum on a public hospital sale by obtaining a petition with at least 1,500 signatures. Tillman, who worked as a carpenter at the hospital, was at one of the board of supervisors meetings where the sale was discussed. He heard an attorney say that the supervisors would make the decision – unless someone forced a referendum.

“I happened to be standing there and I said, ‘Well, I’ll take that challenge,’” he said. “I don’t think five men should have that big decision.”

But even if Tillman had never launched his petition drive, pursuing the sale would have required Singing River executives to embark on a kind of political campaign to persuade not only supervisors but also their constituents to support the sale. 

The hospital is the second-largest employer in Jackson County with more than 3,500 employees. People all over the county remember births and deaths, emergencies and routine check-ups, first jobs and decades-long careers at Singing River. 

Many of them also remember a profound betrayal: For years, the hospital secretly stopped paying into retirees’ pension fund before it collapsed in 2014. A settlement in a federal class-action resulted in lower payments than retirees had been promised. 

Murdock embarked on a county-wide speaking tour late this summer. She spoke at school district convocations and rotary club meetings, the chamber of commerce and churches, trying to convince people to support the sale. 

At a special meeting for pensioners, Murdock assured them the sale would not affect the pension settlement

Meanwhile, Tillman traveled the county, too. In late August, he and his cousin Paul Wise, also 73 and a Singing River retiree, spent several hours outside Ixtapa, a Mexican restaurant in Vancleave. They both grew up in Pascagoula, two of their grandmother’s 75 grandchildren. Wise was leaning toward supporting the sale, while Tillman was leaning against it. 

Paul Wise and Irby Tillman, Singing River retirees, collect signatures in support of a referendum on selling the hospital outside a restaurant in Vancleave, Mississippi.

Tillman prided himself on never saying a word about how he thought anyone should vote, only emphasizing the importance of having a say in the process. The men carried a handmade poster that said “Let your voice be heard” and was decorated with small American flags. Everyone they talked to wanted to see a referendum. 

All five supervisors and even Murdock signed the petition.

“If I didn’t sign, I didn’t want (that) to get in the way of the goal, which is to move this forward,” she said. “And so I didn’t want that to be the headline. I wanted the headline to be like, ‘This is the right thing to do, whether there’s a petition or not.’”

But she was wary of what a referendum could mean.

Mississippi Today could locate only one such referendum in state history. Oktibbeha County voters roundly rejected a proposal to sell OCH Regional Medical Center in 2017. If that happened in Jackson County, Singing River leaders said the county would have to raise taxes and still be unable to cover rising costs. 

In the end, Tillman did not gather enough signatures to require a referendum. It rained heavily in the weeks before the deadline to turn in the petition, and Tillman relied on old fashioned methods to obtain signatures.

“Water and ink don’t go together too good,” he said. 

And after months of discussion, showing up to board of supervisors meetings and public hearings, he was leaning toward supporting the sale anyway, he said. 

Irby Tillman addresses Randy Bosarge during a Board of Supervisors meeting on the possible sale of the Singing River Health System in Pascagoula on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. Tillman started a petition to bring the sale to a public vote.

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors doesn’t yet have a specific timeline for when the request for proposals will be finalized and buyers can begin submitting bids. 

The potential buyer frequently mentioned by name in Jackson County is Ochsner. But other hospital chains could make a move, too. 

The Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System (FMOLHS), which operates St. Dominic Memorial Hospital in Jackson and hospitals in Louisiana, said in a statement that it is “aware” that an RFP has been issued. 

“FMOLHS regularly evaluates opportunities to expand access to care by partnering with quality health systems to bring together outstanding clinicians, the most advanced technology and leading research to ensure that our patients receive the highest quality and safest care possible,” said Kevin Cook, chief operating officer.

The sale will leave Mississippi with one less locally owned hospital, and it may be an indication of the future facing every small hospital in the state. 

Richard Roberson, general counsel and vice president of policy at the Mississippi Hospital Association, said Singing River’s situation highlights the structural forces working against Mississippi hospitals. 

“I think that is what’s scary about it – you do see a hospital that is a strong hospital, a strong health system, and as good as they do things, they’re still struggling,” Roberson said. 

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Health Care: New program aims to fix worker shortage

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Singing River Health Care Workforce Academy allows participants to work while advancing their careers

Working on the front lines of the pandemic was a challenge for staff at the system — a challenge only made harder by staffing issues.

Singing River is hoping to tackle the statewide health care worker shortage directly through its new apprenticeship programs. 

The Singing River Health Care Workforce Academy is a community-centered program on the Gulf Coast that aims to create more opportunities for people to become qualified health care professionals. 

The academy offers apprenticeships, such as a surgical tech internship and a certified nurse assistant internship, to create opportunities for people to continue working while they learn and accelerate their careers. 

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College is working with Singing River on the licensed practical nurse (LPN) apprenticeship program, which hospital officials say is the first of its kind in the . Jessica Lewis, director of human resources at the hospital, hopes that other hospitals will soon adopt the apprenticeship model to generate more career opportunities for interested in working in the medical field. 

“We’re putting a huge investment into really training (people) and filling those gaps. The critical piece is making sure that we develop and build pipelines, because we’re going to continue to have staffing crises,” she said. “We have to go out there teaching and training our own.”  

The Singing River Health Care system will create more than 220 jobs while educating more than 1,000 students as a result of the program, according to the hospital.

Students can start in the academy as early as high school so that young people can get exposure to the medical field and make informed decisions about their career paths. Singing River has partnered with the and high schools to engage 11th and 12th grade students to participate in pre-apprenticeship programs and plans to expand to schools in Hancock County. 

Singing River will offer immediate employment to qualified graduates in high-demand critical specialties such as certified nurse assistants, surgical techs and licensed practical nurses.

Kellie Powell, a 33-year-old mother of three originally from Texas, has worked at Singing River as a medical assistant for nine months. She will graduate from the LPN program Sept. 2023. 

Prior to joining Singing River, she lived in New Orleans and worked for Ochsner Health System. After being displaced by Hurricane Ida, she describes coming to Mississippi as “a blessing in disguise.” 

“My children’s father and I packed for three to four days to evacuate and discovered that we couldn’t go back home after the storm,” she said.

She went to Gautier with her family. Her employers at Ochsner told her to find a branch in the Gulf Coast area and start working. 

“I found Singing River in Pascagoula and they hired me on the spot … I didn’t have any interview clothes or a car.” 

She hopes completing the program will help her pay off her student loan debt from when she attended college.  

“This program is the golden ticket. When I graduate, I will be debt free.” 

After graduating, she will sign a contract agreeing to work at Singing River for at least two years after completing the program.

The hospital plans to build a new facility to house this program, which is currently operating in a temporary location, in addition to a community health education center.

Construction for this facility near Hospital will begin soon and is being paid for with a $7 million grant from the state, Lewis said. Topics explored in the community health education center will include tobacco cessation, first aid, parenting, breastfeeding and childbirth. 

There will also be an emphasis on mental health, Lewis said. All of these programs will also be offered virtually through their digital medicine program, a program made by Ochsner Hospital System, that allows individuals to manage one’s high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes insulin from your phone and provides telehealth visits.

Eric Shelton contributed to this report.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Local organizations raising awareness for organ donations

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www.wxxv25.com – Janae Jordan – 2022-06-27 19:40:02

Mississippi Organ Recovery Agency and Health System partnered to host a presentation to Jeune Esprit Service and Social Club on the importance of organ donations.

Currently, there are over 100,000 people on the waiting list for a life-saving transplant. One organ donor can save eight lives and can enhance the lives of 75 others through tissue donation.

MORA covered the need for organ, eye, and tissue donation…

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Mississippi clinic challenges law banning most abortions

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www.wxxv25.com – WXXV Staff – 2022-06-27 17:11:30

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A couple of opponents stand outside the Jackson Women’s Health Organization clinic and call out to the patients inside the medical facility, encouraging them to not have an abortion, Jackson, Miss., Saturday, June 25, 2022. The clinic is the only facility that performs abortions in the . However, on Friday, the overturned , ending constitutional protections for abortion. (AP…

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Hosemann, other lawmakers create committees after abortion ruling

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Mississippi legislative committees created after abortion decision

Mississippi Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann on Monday announced he was creating a nine-member “Senate Study Group on Women, Children and Families” after the ’s abortion decision last week.

In a press release, Hosemann said the committee would be tasked with making recommendations to the on policies pertaining to families and children from birth to 3 years old. These, he said, may include making adoption easier and improving foster care, helping children in custody, and improving child support and child care.

On Friday, House Speaker Philip Gunn announced he would create the “Speaker’s Commission on the Sanctity of Life,” to examine issues and policies affecting mothers and children.

Republicans Hosemann, Gunn and Gov. Tate Reeves have praised the high court’s decision on a Mississippi case last week that overturns the decades-old decision providing women rights. But the three said the decision also requires Mississippi leaders to provide more resources to help mothers, children and families.

Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation, suffers from lack of prenatal, postnatal and all other forms of . It also has the highest infant mortality rate in the nation and one of the highest maternal rates. It has for years faced federal court decrees to address its substandard foster care and children’s services system.

On Monday Hosemann said: “From increasing opportunities for early education to addressing health care availability, the Senate has approved common sense legislation which supports our mothers and babies. I look forward to reviewing the recommendations from this diverse group of lawmakers on these critical issues.”

Gunn has steadfastly opposed expansion to cover the working poor and earlier this year torpedoed a Senate proposal backed by Hosemann to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for Mississippi mothers.

Hosemann is the only one of the state’s top three leaders who’s said he’s open to discussion about expanding Medicaid, which would provide the state about $1 billion a year in federal funds to provide health coverage for the working poor.

Hosemann said his new study committee will be chaired by Sen. Nicole Boyd, R-Oxford and will include Sens. Kevin Blackwell, Hob Bryan, Dean Kirby, Rod Hickman, Angela Hill, Chad McManan, Angela Turner-Ford and Brice Wiggins. Hosemann said the committee will hold public hearings in the late summer or early fall and hear testimony from state agencies, experts and others.

Gunn indicated his commission would have lawmakers and advocates making recommendations to the House for policies to help women’s and children’s wellbeing.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

1998 state court ruling leads to lawsuit that could prolong Mississippi abortion fight

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1998 state court ruling leads to lawsuit that could prolong Mississippi abortion fight

An all but forgotten 1998 ruling by the Supreme Court declaring a right to an is granted in the state Constitution could prolong the fight over abortion in Mississippi despite last week’s landmark decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

The in the 1998 decision, , said that the state Constitution — not just the U.S. Constitution — also granted abortion rights.

The Pro-Choice Mississippi v. Fordice decision would supersede Mississippi’s trigger law, passed in 2007 by the , that stated that abortion would be illegal in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

Jackson Women’s Health Organization has filed a lawsuit in Chancery Court arguing the trigger law is invalid because of the constitutional right to an abortion spelled out by the state Supreme Court in the 1998 decision. The lawsuit also will contend a separate state law that bans abortions after six weeks also should be invalid because of the same ruling. A federal court injunction blocking the six-week law from taking effect will be lifted based on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last Friday overturning Roe v. Wade.

“The Mississippi Supreme Court’s 1998 decision interpreting the Mississippi Constitution exists completely independent of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions about the federal Constitution. It is binding precedent.” said Rob McDuff of the and who was an attorney on the 1998 lawsuit. “As confirmed by the Mississippi Supreme Court in that case, the decision about whether and when to have children belongs to individuals and families, not to the state’s politicians.” 

Under the trigger law, Lynn Fitch is charged with certifying that Roe v. Wade had been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Fitch, whose office filed the lawsuit in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization leading to the reversal of Roe, filed the certification Monday morning, meaning abortions in the state will be illegal within 10 days except in the cases of the mother’s life being in danger and of a law enforcement-reported rape. It is not clear how the lawsuit will impact the certification and how abortion will be handled in the state while the lawsuit is adjudicated.

The 1998 decision was written by then-Justice Michael Sullivan of Hattiesburg. He was joined by four other members of the nine-person court.

Sullivan wrote, “The right to privacy in article III, § 32, of the Mississippi Constitution encompasses the right to autonomous bodily integrity. The right to choose to have an abortion, like many other medical procedures, is included in the right to autonomous bodily integrity. While we do not find the Mississippi Constitution to provide an explicit right to an abortion, abortion is protected within the penumbras of the right to privacy.”

The 1998 case was filed by Pro-Choice Mississippi challenging restrictions placed on abortion by the state, such as requiring a 24-hour waiting period after receiving counseling at the abortion clinic, requiring licensing of the abortion clinics and requiring consent of both parents for minors to receive an abortion. The court ruled that those restrictions were allowable and not an undue burden on women, but still recognized a right to an abortion under the Mississippi Constitution.

The groups involved in filing the lawsuit for Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the last abortion clinic in the state, are the Mississippi Center for Justice, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison,

“Abortion remains legal in Mississippi,” said Hillary Schneller, senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights. “We will continue to work to ensure that every Mississippian can make their own decisions about their body, their lives, their relationships and their families.”

Mississippi is one of 13 states with a trigger law. But as Mississippi’s trigger law has been discussed in the state and nationwide, no one has taken into account the fact that the state Supreme Court has said the Mississippi Constitution protects the right to an abortion.

Apparently, Mississippi legislators also had forgotten about the 1998 state Supreme Court decision when they passed the trigger law in 2007.

“The government should not be deciding matters of childbirth for the women and families of Mississippi,” said Vangela M. Wade, president and CEO of Mississippi Center for Justice. 

Editor’s note: Vangela M. Wade is a member of Mississippi Today’s board of directors.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Mississippi AG certifies state’s abortion ‘trigger law’

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www.wxxv25.com – WXXV Staff – 2022-06-27 09:44:03

Agf Desk Photo Cred Ago Office
Lynn Fitch

 

This morning, in according to law, Attorney General Lynn Fitch published the required certification for what is known as the state’s trigger law.

“Mississippi’s laws to promote life are solid and thanks to the Court’s clear and strong opinion in Dobbs v. , they can now go into effect,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch.

The law takes effect in…

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