Health

Hospital system says it has suffered due to lack of Medicaid expansion

A county-owned Mississippi hospital system that wants to put itself up for sale says one of its main financial woes is the state’s elected officials’ decision not to renew Medicaid to provide insurance coverage for the working poor.

“Mississippi is one of 12 states that have not adopted the Medicaid expansion, which means that the amount of income that would have to go to healthcare systems in our state should decrease, which will significantly affect hospitals like Singing River, which have a significant assistance to the underinsured and uninsured. of the population,” the Singing River Health System said in a post on its website explaining why it was looking for new owners.

Singing River Health System is owned by coastal Jackson County. The system operates hospitals in Pascagoula, Gulfport, and Ocean Springs. It also has about three dozen clinics and more than 3,500 employees. The system’s trustees announced on June 1 that they had voted to put it up for sale or to merge with another healthcare system.

For years, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and leaders of the Republican-controlled Mississippi Legislature have rejected proposals to expand Medicaid, the federal and state-funded public health insurance program. Although the federal government would pay most of the bill for the expansion, and it would put billions of dollars into the state, Reeves and others have repeatedly said they don’t want to enroll more people in the state program.

As part of the healthcare overhaul that then-President Barack Obama signed into law in 2010, states have the option to expand Medicaid to low-income workers whose jobs do not provide private health insurance.

Even without the expansion, Medicaid coverage in Mississippi has increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a state of about 3 million people, just over 670,000 people were enrolled in Medicaid in March 2020, the first month that cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Mississippi. Last month, enrollment was just over 814,000.

The Singing River Health System also says on its website that it is facing financial challenges as Mississippi has a high rate of poverty and a large number of uninsured residents.

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On Monday, Jackson County regulators decided to hold a public hearing on the future of the Singing River healthcare system on August 17, news outlets reported. The issue of selling the system will be put to a vote in the district, possibly as early as November, if at least 1,500 people sign a petition for an election.

Executives have said that if the hospital system is not sold, Jackson County will likely need a substantial tax increase to keep the Singing River Health System functioning.

According to the Sun Herald, Singing River officials have told regulators that the system will need $287 million over the next five years to cover rising costs. Supervisor Ken Taylor said the amount needed to cover the hospital’s projected costs would exceed the legal limits on how much the county can increase taxes each year.

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