Spend surplus state money on bailing out rural hospitals

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 9, 2023

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Mississippi has nothing short of a full-blown healthcare crisis and those in charge of state government seem to be doing nothing to fix it.

That’s a particularly difficult pill to swallow when most Mississippians understand that expanding Medicaid almost immediately would save the more than 50 rural Mississippi hospitals in danger of closing because they are forced to treat patients with no health insurance.

Those hospitals, desperately needed in Mississippi’s rural communities, cannot refuse service to patients, even though they know they will not be paid or reimbursed for the cost of doing so.

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State Rep. Robert Johnson III said this week dealing with the healthcare crisis should be the state’s number one priority.

At the same time, GOP leaders, which run state government, are grappling with an unusual situation, which is how to handle the huge surplus of money the state is sitting on.

Republican Philip Gunn, speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives, and Republican Tate Reeves want to do away with the state’s income tax.

Republican Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann thinks that would be a foolish move and instead proposes a one-time refund of state income taxes paid by residents, cutting checks to taxpayers of up to $500 each.

Here’s a thought: If the state has so much extra money on its hands and Republican political leaders refuse to take advantage of the federal offer of Medicaid expansion, shouldn’t we then spend that money on bailing out the many rural hospitals in danger of closing soon?

This week the Mississippi State Medical Association, made up of the state’s physicians, called on lawmakers and state leaders to act quickly to help the state’s hospitals.

Mississippi is one of only 11 states not to expand Medicaid, which would provide health insurance for hundreds of thousands of the state’s working poor residents and at the same time, would bolster the state’s mostly rural hospitals.

Our elected officials must do something to help hospitals and Mississippians in need of health insurance. The state’s leaders cannot continue to ignore the real needs of the people of Mississippi.