Dispatch Columbus. November 8, 2022.
Editorial: Why don’t we support a larger set of economic impacts than the aluminum plant?
In a hastily called special session last week, the Mississippi Legislature overwhelmingly approved a $246 million incentive package to support a 2.5 million aluminum smelter project. billion in Lowndes County. The incentive is equivalent to approximately 10% of the project size.
For the Golden Triangle, the agreement was obvious. The new plant will produce approximately 1,000 jobs at an average salary of $93,000.
Outside the box, however, the lightning speed with which Governor Tate Reeves, who called the special session, and the legislature, which passed the measure in just hours, raised an interesting question.
Why, the Greenwood Commonwealth asked in an editorial on the eve of last week’s special session, is the legislature so quick to move forward on an economic development plan that benefits only one region of the state while by stubbornly refusing to move forward on another issue that has reached crisis point and would eclipse the impact of any private economic development project?
In other words: what if the Governor and Legislature had the opportunity to back a project that would bring in $1 billion to the state each year, create 11,300 jobs in each of the next five years, and would significantly improve the healthcare system? What if this project could be carried out with an investment of 5% of the total impact, or half the percentage of the aluminum plant project?
Moreover, what if this action could save a faltering hospital system?
Wouldn’t the legislature act with the same urgency we saw last week if given the chance?
To put it succinctly, why hasn’t the state followed 39 other states in expanding Medicaid to about 200,000 low-income Mississippians since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010?
State leadership — particularly Governor Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn — has thumbed its nose at $11 billion in federal money to cover the vast majority of those costs since then, even hospital after hospitals – six in the past eight years – have closed, largely because the cost of unpaid care (estimated at $616 million in 2019 alone) is unsustainable.
Hospitals are required to treat everyone who walks through their doors. When patients do not have adequate coverage, hospitals are left behind. Expanded Medicaid would provide a safety net for these hospitals and help sustain their existence.
The problem is only getting worse.
In July, Greenville-based Delta Health System closed its neonatal intensive care unit, citing $1 million in annual losses. It was the only NICU in a four-county region of the Mississippi Delta.
State Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said last week that hospitals in Greenville and Greenwood were at risk of closing, leaving a large area of the state without a hospital.
The Mississippi Hospital Association says five hospitals face imminent closure, while a 2020 study by the Chartis Center for Rural Health estimates that 64% of the state’s remaining rural hospitals are at high risk of closure.
When the nearest hospital emergency room is 100 miles away, it doesn’t matter how good your health insurance is: the well-insured and the uninsured are in the same dangerous boat.
Medicaid expansion would benefit all Mississippians economically and healthily.
Tupelo Daily Diary. November 5, 2022.
Editorial: Mississippi Facing the Health Care Crisis
Mississippi lost its only burn center. Most of the Delta no longer has a hospital where women can give birth. And the state’s top health official has warned that there are at least six other hospitals across the state that are on the verge of bankruptcy.
To say that Mississippi is facing a health care crisis does not seem to adequately reflect our current reality.
Several factors have brought us to this point, but nothing has had a greater impact than the loss of federal dollars that hospitals use to compensate for the loss of care provided to uninsured patients. That money started dwindling over a decade ago with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. It was to be offset by extending Medicaid coverage to the working poor.
Thirty-eight states have done so. In each of these states, the results have been positive: more jobs, more revenue generated, fewer hospital closures, and most importantly, more people who can afford health care.
But in Mississippi, two key state leaders continue to oppose Medicaid expansion. Governor Tate Reeves exhausts tired talking points on Obamacare, socialized medicine and state failure. House Speaker Philip Gunn simply says he hasn’t heard anyone ask for Medicaid expansion.
Both positions are obviously wrong.
Many of those 38 states that have expanded Medicaid are led by Republican governors and legislatures. They did the cost-benefit analysis and they made the wise decision.
The state’s own economists have repeated the numbers over and over, and they show clear benefits if the state grows: up to $44 million in additional revenue and about 11,000 new jobs over the next decade. .
The Mississippi Hospital Association has spoken out forcefully on the need for Medicaid expansion. In fact, they offered a way to pay for it through their existing members.
The expansion would be for Mississippi workers who pay taxes and give to the system. These are people too poor to qualify for subsidized plans through the ACA exchange, but who still earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. They fall through the cracks, the same cracks that are collapsing our hospitals.
The state just invested nearly $250 million in a private company to create 1,000 new jobs as part of a larger $2.5 billion investment.
The state economist estimated that Mississippi would need to spend between $180 million and $210 million on Medicaid expansion, which he said would be more than covered by savings to the state, and the MSHA said. agreed to pay in advance. The return would be around 11,000 new jobs in addition to jobs saved at existing hospitals facing closure.
If the Columbus Economic Development Project was a big deal, and we think it probably is, then the Medicaid expansion is a much bigger deal.
And while jobs are important, don’t forget the thousands of hard-working Mississippians who would then have access to affordable health care. They are the real concern here. Despite all the politics, let’s not lose sight of our neighbors who are suffering — in some cases dying — because our healthcare system is in crisis.
Commonwealth of Greenwood. November 9, 2022.
Editorial: USM Should Reimburse Volleyball Millions
The University of Southern Mississippi, to borrow one of the great expressions of our time, was trying to “put lipstick on a pig” with its offer to honor the bogus lease that had its volleyball arena built- ball.
The Mississippi Department of Social Services, under a different leadership than that which had collaborated in diverting $5 million in welfare money to the volleyball project, was not fooled.
Neither is Tom Duff, a wealthy USM alumnus and chairman of the State College Board, which oversees USM.
The same day USM announced it was working on a plan to allow the state welfare agency to use space on campus to provide programs for the poor and underserved, Duff told Mississippi Today that the USM should simply refund the $5 million to the state, since it was obtained under false pretences.
Duff’s comments were the College Board’s most outspoken yet about the controversy, which has embroiled USM and its athletic foundation in one of the biggest spending scandals in state history. He said when the College Board approved the lease, he was unaware that he was also signing to use the proceeds to build the volleyball facility. Duff said the issue was on the agenda for a College Board meeting in 2017, a time-saving procedure some boards use to quickly dispense with what is normally routine business.
A defendant in the welfare scandal, Zach New, pleaded guilty earlier this year to facilitating the volleyball project by concocting a scheme to circumvent federal regulations on how aid block grants social to the States are used. These regulations on temporary assistance to needy families are subject to interpretation, but they are clear on this point: the funding cannot be used for bricks and mortar construction.
To try to hide the true intent, USM signed a lease with its athletic foundation, which then sublet the space for $5 million to the nonprofit New operated with her mother, Nancy New. , to supposedly provide a place on the USM campus where self-help classes and other programs could be provided to the clients the nonprofit claims to serve. Even if that part of the market had been executed at the time, which it was not, it would have been a waste of the public’s money.
For USM to think he can fix things by trying to fulfill the lease now is ridiculous. It’s also illegal, according to the state Department of Social Services.
Questions have been raised as to why the Department of Social Services has so far failed to demand repayment of the $5 million. When a lawyer he had hired to pursue misused or stolen welfare money began looking into the volleyball deal, he was canned. One theory was that Gov. Tate Reeves, to whom the DHS director reports, didn’t want to annoy any of his powerful Republican friends with strong USM connections, like Duff.
Duff’s comments, however, would indicate otherwise. He said the lease was stupid and poorly done, and he suggested that USM’s efforts so far to avoid returning the money are also stupid.
USM or its athletic foundation better listen and refund the money. If they continue to refuse, the state should prosecute them.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.
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