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HomeHealthHealth careMississippi at risk of losing over half of its rural hospitals

Mississippi at risk of losing over half of its rural hospitals

JACKSON, Miss. — Over half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals are vulnerable to closing instantly or within the close to future, in line with the state’s main public well being official.

Dr. Daniel Edney, the state well being officer, spoke to state senators at a listening to Monday concerning the monetary strain on Mississippi hospitals. Edney mentioned 54% of the state’s rural hospitals — 38 — may shut. The potential closures threaten to exacerbate poor well being outcomes in one of many nation’s poorest states.

“That is a situation that is intolerable from an economic standpoint — to lose 54% of our hospitals in the state — much less from an access to care perspective,” Edney mentioned.

Rural hospitals had been below financial pressure earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, and the issues have worsened as costs to provide care have increased. Mississippi’s excessive variety of low-income uninsured folks means hospitals are on the hook for extra uncompensated care. At the identical time, labor prices weigh on hospitals as they wrestle to pay aggressive wages to retain workers.

“The costs on an income statement for a hospital have skyrocketed,” said Scott Christensen, chairn of the Mississippi Hospital Association Board of Governors. “The liabilities on the balance sheets of hospitals around the state have reached some unsustainable levels given what we face.”

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The crux of the issue going through Mississippi’s hospitals is that revenues haven’t stored tempo with rising prices, Christensen mentioned.

The pressure is most acute in Mississippi’s Delta area, an agricultural flatland the place poverty stays entrenched. Greenwood Leflore Hospital has been reducing prices by lowering providers and shrinking its workforce for months. But the medical facility hasn’t been in a position to stave off the danger of imminent closure. Hospital leaders say they are going to be out of enterprise earlier than the top of the 12 months with out a money infusion.

At Greenwood Leflore and different hospitals across the state, maternity care models have been on the chopping block. Mississippi already has the nation’s highest fetal mortality price, highest toddler mortality price and highest pre-term start price, and is among the many worst states for maternal mortality.

About 60% of births in Mississippi in 2020 had been financed by Medicaid, in line with the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A rising variety of healthcare deserts are rising within the Delta, however monetary pressures are bearing down on hospitals in additional affluent areas of the state, as effectively, consultants on the listening to mentioned. But hospitals in poor communities typically deal with sufferers who don’t have insurance coverage and may’t afford to pay for care out of pocket. An growth of Medicaid protection would cut back prices that end result from uncompensated care.

Gov. Tate Reeves and different Republican leaders have killed proposals to expand Medicaid, which primarily covers low-income employees whose jobs don’t present personal medical health insurance. Opponents of growth say they don’t need to encourage reliance on authorities assist for individuals who don’t want it.

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As a near-term answer, the Mississippi Hospital Association has instructed the state’s Division of Medicaid work with federal officers to boost the Medicaid reimbursement price cap to a better degree. The transfer would decrease the price of offering take care of people who find themselves already coated below the state’s present Medicaid plan.

Democratic Sen. Hob Bryan, who convened the listening to, mentioned the monetary outlook for Mississippi’s hospitals is a “market failure” that warrants full-time consideration.

“What we need is somebody, somewhere in state government, who is charged with figuring what we want healthcare to look like now and five and 10 years down the road,” Bryan mentioned. “Unless I’m terribly confused, there is nobody in your state government that has that charge.”

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