Home » OPINION » Columns » BILL CRAWFORD: Cuts put Mississippi health care infrastructure at risk

BILL CRAWFORD: Cuts put Mississippi health care infrastructure at risk

BILL CRAWFORD

Our politicians these days seem to look only at the costs of health care when making policy decisions. Thus, it is no surprise legislative leaders are proposing to cut already low Medicaid reimbursements by 5% while Congressional leaders look to slash health care spending wherever they can.

 
People with health crises have a different view. During this flu epidemic, mothers with sick babies on Medicaid have trouble getting timely access to providers. Clinics are backed up, hospital emergency rooms are on patient diversion, and too many children are really sick.
 
More cuts to Medicaid will likely cause more private clinics to quit accepting Medicaid. Already too many clinics do not since Mississippi Medicaid reimbursements are among the lowest in the nation. 
 
More cuts to Medicaid will put more rural hospitals at risk of closure, or at least their emergency rooms. They can’t stay open when costs continually exceed revenues. 
 
More cuts to Medicaid will make it hard to recruit and retain physicians in Mississippi. It’s already hard. It will get harder.
 
Seriously ill rural residents needing specialty care travel farther and farther to receive services. That will just get worse as more communities and hospitals lose specialty physicians.
 
Meanwhile, as hospital emergency room usage soars, Medicaid and Medicare continue to reduce payments for uncompensated emergency room care.
 
And, while Congress finally reauthorized and sustained funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program through Medicaid, federal funding for community health centers remains uncertain. These health centers provide essential medical services for large and growing numbers of uninsured and Medicaid patients.
 
And, the President and Congress look to reduce subsidies for low-income families with Affordable Care Act exchange health insurance. These tend to be mostly working families without employer or dependent coverage. As families drop these policies due to increased premiums, the burden on community health centers and emergency rooms will only grow and grow.
 
Rural communities will suffer most. Residents there already have few choices.
 
As one with family members currently suffering from flu, heart conditions, dementia, and pancreatic cancer, I am thankful for the precious access we have to health care in America. Seems like this is something we would want to strengthen and provide to all, not tear down. 
 
Yes, Obamacare went too far, but Republicans don’t need to go too far the other way. 
 
For example, protecting the escalating, and often obscene, profits for giant pharmaceutical companies while not protecting the wellbeing of the working poor, e.g. leaving them without coverage and access, is not conservative, it’s diabolical. 
 
The Associated Press reported that Mississippi’s population fell for the third year in a row, “as more people moved away from the Magnolia State than moved in.” 
 
The AP also reported that John Green, director of the University of Mississippi Center for Population Studies, said, “If I had to argue one prevailing reason for net out-migration from Mississippi, I would focus on the search for socio-economic opportunities and wellbeing.” 
 
A state whose mantra is cut Medicaid, cut public health, and cut mental health not only puts its health care infrastructure at risk but also will find it hard to keep and attract talent.  
 
 
 
» BILL CRAWFORD (crawfolk@gmail.com) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.

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