The Mississippi legislative session is in full swing and one state leader is looking to take initiative in finding a bipartisan approach to keep struggling hospitals afloat.
House Minority Leader Robert Johnson, III, D- Natchez, says that healthcare is at the top of his list of priorities. With several hospitals within the Magnolia State on the verge of full closure, Johnson would like to see the legislature work towards a solution that will prevent people from potentially lacking emergency services within their respective regions of the state.
“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 said on MidDays with Gerard Gibert. “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.”
Governor Tate Reeves recently took issue with the state’s certificate of need (CON) laws, stating that they are outdated. He argues that the laws prevent competition, thus stifling the market for hospitals. While Johnson agrees that the criteria for CON is restrictive, competition isn’t the issue at hand — the problem is money-related.
“CON laws, in a lot of respects, are maybe too restrictive, but that doesn’t solve the problem we’re facing. Our problem is a money problem,” Johnson continued. “It’s not an access or licensing issue. It’s a money problem. There are hospitals that are closing because they don’t have the funds to keep them open. There are hospitals in metropolitan areas, like Jackson, that are open, but they are severely understaffed in terms of the services they provide and in terms of the people providing treatment.”
Johnson added that he has spoken to leaders within both major political parties and a consensus opinion is that a short-term solution is necessary. Lawmakers will continue to address the topic of healthcare and rural hospitals in Mississippi as the session continues.
Watch the full interview with Representative Robert Johnson, III below: