Democratic legislative leaders are set to propose a handful of bills this week that may provide solutions to the state’s ongoing hospital crisis.
For months, state health officials have warned that at least 38 hospitals across Mississippi are in danger of closing, one of which is the Greenwood Leflore Hospital. In 2022 alone, Greenwood Leflore, the largest hospital in the Delta, was forced to lay off over 150 employees as well as close a number of services in an effort to keep the hospital’s doors open.
Now, legislators are preparing to introduce several bills that would appropriate funding to struggling hospitals and expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
In the first piece of legislation, $150 million in funds would be allocated from the Department of Finance and Administration to serve as a temporary solution to a hospital’s imbalanced budget. Those funds would be derived from $135 million in unspent American Rescue Plan Act funding, $13 million from Mississippi’s Health Care Expendable Fund, and the $2 million remaining BP settlement funds.
Additionally, several other bills would propose an expansion of Medicaid throughout Mississippi, in turn providing $1 billion to the state so hospitals can cover rising costs. At this time, Mississippi is one of 11 states without Medicaid expansion.
According to House Minority Leader Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, introducing legislation that would give hospitals the financial support they need is at the top of his list for this session.
“There is no higher priority right now, in my opinion, than healthcare, and that healthcare is specifically about making sure that people have access to emergency rooms and to hospitals in at least an area close to where they live,” Johnson stated. “We’re in dire straits right now in terms of having people lose hospital services in an entire region, and so we need to do something about that.”
Johnson added that he’s discussed providing a resolution to the growing crisis to both Republicans and Democrats in the Mississippi legislature.
“I’ve talked to leadership on both sides. They understand the crisis and there is a willingness to do something at least in the short term,” Johnson said.
Senator David Blount, D-Hinds, stated that at this time, he has not heard of a plan from the other side of the aisle to expand healthcare or help at-risk hospitals.
“The Democratic plan is to spend one dollar to get nine dollars and do the most important thing for our hospitals—that’s the Democratic plan,” Blount explained. “If there’s a Republican plan, I don’t know what it is.”
The legislation is expected to be introduced this week.