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Budget groups eye Mississippi Department of Health expenses

JACKSON, MISS– The budget requests of the Mississippi Department of Health (MSDH) were under the microscope at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson on Tuesday. 

State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier addressed the budget group regarding the necessity of more funding.

“Patient care has decreased 40 percent,” said Dr. Currier. “As Medicaid provides more, we provide less.”

The 40 percent decrease of patient care, grouped with the 13 percent increase of salaries and the 11 percent decrease of staff, was a primary issue during the hearing. Representative Toby Barker, a member of the budget panel, placed emphasis on MSDH turning attention to programs that would return the investment of state dollars.

Dr. Currier said the department has taken extra steps to save money.
“We’ve started turning off the air-conditioning on the weekends, using female inmates for cleaning services,” said Currier. “These sound like small things, but they add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars saved.”

The main focus of the budget meetings, according to Speaker of the House Philip Gunn, was to define the mission of the state agencies and to discuss the eradication of duplicate payments to these agencies for their services.

For example, if two agencies received funds for offering one service.

The purpose of the department of health is not to provide primary care, according to Currier.

Patient care is down 40 percent, which Currier accredited to more payouts from Medicaid, which caused confusion as to why the agency would ask for more money.

“If patient care is down,” said Rep. Alyce Clarke. “Why would we give you more money?”

Concerns over duplicating funding lay with what responsibilities fall to primary care, and what falls to MSDH.

Senator Angela Hill suggested shifting the responsibility of STD treatment and care to the primary health providers– a service that MSDH has mostly provided.

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn asked Currier what would happen to the agency’s ability to perform if the budget stayed the same, or had to endure mid-year cuts.
“We’ll work with the budget that’s given,” said Dr. Currier. “And try not to cut anything essential.”

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