During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mississippi hospitals have stepped up to build and staff temporary treatment facilities, overcome personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilator shortages, and care for the sick and dying – often at great personal sacrifice. Mississippi’s nearly 60,000 hospital employees are rightly being celebrated as #HealthcareHeroes and recognized by their communities for bravery and commitment.
Although positive COVID cases and hospitalizations were predicted to peak over a month ago, we have seen confirmed cases and hospitalizations increase and reach their highest levels in recent weeks. Now is not the time to let our guard down. We strongly encourage everyone to continue to social distance, wear masks, practice good hand hygiene and avoid large gatherings. We must remain vigilant to protect ourselves and our neighbors.
We also must continue to protect our healthcare workers who are prepared to care for all of us. As Americans, we don’t send those who wear the uniform for us into harm’s way without the resources they need to win. We’re fighting against COVID-19 in this country and our hospitals are on the front line. Let’s not send them into harm’s way without giving them the resources they need to be successful.
This week, the Mississippi Legislature will consider how it will disburse Coronavirus Relief Act funds. Hospitals have lost revenue as patients sheltered at home and elective procedures were cancelled. Hospitals have also incurred significant expenses. The Mississippi Hospital Association has advised the Legislature that at least $320 million is needed for hospitals to adequately recover the costs of coronavirus-related expenses. When May lost revenue is calculated, we expect that total lost revenue will exceed the approximately $450 million in federal funding that hospitals have already received. With decreasing revenue and increased expenses, hospitals must have help from the Legislature.
Health care in Mississippi was already in a precarious position before the pandemic, primarily because so many Mississippians don’t have health insurance. The high level of uninsured Mississippians results in over $600 million annually in uncompensated care costs for hospitals. This hampers the ability of our hospitals to continue to provide care; but most importantly, it hampers the ability of Mississippians to lead healthier lives. Sadly, the number of uninsured Mississippians will rise as employers make difficult decisions during the pandemic.
Refusing to access additional federal funding for the past eight years to provide insurance coverage to working Mississippians has cost the state billions of dollars in federal revenue – money which was desperately needed yesterday and is critically needed today. In addition to providing funding to address the COVID crisis, we continue to call upon our elected leaders to consider options for extending health insurance to those who may have lost coverage through no fault of their own and to those who are unable to afford commercial coverage. As the state expands unemployment benefits to those not normally eligible for benefits, what better time than during a pandemic to extend health care coverage to our friends and neighbors too?
The last three months have been unprecedented times for everyone. We appreciate the leadership of our Legislature during these difficult and unprecedented times, and we recognize that many Mississippians need assistance. We simply ask that they support our healthcare heroes and provide them with the resources they need to continue to take care of us all. It’s time to support healthcare.
Timothy H. Moore
President and CEO
Mississippi Hospital Association
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