Mississippi GOP leads state into 'a full-blown hospital crisis'
Young woman patient lying at hospital bed feeling sad (Shutterstock)

Mississippi, notoriously the state that originated the legal challenge that led to the demise of Roe v. Wade, also happens to be one of just ten states, all controlled by Republicans, that still rejects federal funding for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

That decision has put their hospital system on the brink of collapse, The New York Times reported on Tuesday.

"In Mississippi, one of the nation’s poorest states, the missing federal health care dollars have helped drive what is now a full-blown hospital crisis," reported Sharon LaFraniere. "Statewide, experts say that no more than a few of Mississippi’s 100-plus hospitals are operating at a profit. Free care is costing them about $600 million a year, the equivalent of 8 percent to 10 percent of their operating costs — a higher share than almost anywhere else in the nation, according to the state hospital association."

Medicaid expansion in other states has been a lifeline to rural hospitals, who tend to see fewer patients, are less likely to be affiliated with large hospital systems, and serve remoter, poorer areas — the type of hospital that has been disproportionately vanishing around the country, leaving already distressed areas with few health care options.

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In Mississippi, more than half of adults unable to access insurance because of the lack of Medicaid expansion are Black.

"Expanding Medicaid would uncork a spigot of about $1.35 billion a year in federal funds to hospitals and health care providers, according to a 2021 report by the office of the state economist," said the report. "And it would guarantee medical coverage to some 100,000 uninsured adults making less than $20,120 a year in a state whose death rates are at or near the nation’s highest for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and pneumonia. Infant mortality is also sky-high, and the Delta has the nation’s highest rate of foot and leg amputations because of diabetes or hypertension. Health officials blame those numbers in part on the high rate of uninsured residents who miss out on preventive care."

According to the report, Mississippi Republicans, while still resisting ACA Medicaid expansion, have relented somewhat in the face of their dire situation, by expanding Medicaid to pregnant women for 12 months after they give birth, and they are also planning a one-time $83 million bailout of hospitals.

This comes as Mississippi faces another scandal for diverting tens of millions in funds intended for antipoverty programs for personal luxuries for state officials, and on "speaking fees" for retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre. The scandal began under former Gov. Phil Bryant, and Gov. Tate Reeves has come under fire as well, particularly after firing an attorney investigating the University of Southern Mississippi's role in the scandal.