Mississippi lieutenant governor details plan to help hospitals 'not just next year, but for the next generation'

Mississippi is in the midst of a hospital crisis, with at least 38 statewide at risk of closing — more than half of the state's rural hospitals — including Greenwood Leflore Hospital, which is the largest in the Mississippi Delta region.

Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said he's pushing the state's legislature to provide immediate help to hospitals with grants, removal of legal barriers to consolidation of small hospitals, and incentives for clinicians to stay in Mississippi, The Greenwood Commonwealth reported Jan. 19.

The plan, he said, will help with Mississippi’s hospital crisis "not just next year but for the next generation," according to the report.

A plan proposed by state Democrats would expand Medicaid throughout Mississippi, providing $1 billion for hospitals to cover rising costs. Mississippi is one of 11 states without Medicaid expansion.

Mr. Hosemann, a rare Republican leader open to Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act, doesn't see that as likely in 2023, the report said. However, he said he is pushing to raise Medicaid reimbursement to hospitals for some services, and to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for new mothers from 60 days to a full year.

"We won the pro-life case, and now we’re unwilling to take care of our moms?" Hosemann said, according to the report. "I don’t understand how you can make that argument."

The Mississippi Senate approved those measures in 2022, but they were killed in the House.

Senate leaders have drafted four bills with a total cost of about $111 million as part of Mr. Hosemann's plan, the report said.

Five things to know about the plan and associated draft bills:

1. It would provide $80 million in grants to bolster hospital revenues, disbursed based on bed counts and the type of care they provide. It would require hospitals to provide data lawmakers could use to overhaul the state’s health delivery system, the report said.

2. It would remove legal barriers to hospital consolidation, including anti-trust laws, but would not change the state's certificate of need regulations. Mr. Hosemann said Mississippi's CON laws are due for a review, however, and that would likely happen in 2023, the report said.

3. Funding to the tune of $6 million would be provided for a nurse loan repayment program to address the state's shortage of about 3,000 nurses. The plan would use federal pandemic relief money to provide $6,000 a year, for up to three years, for nurses who agree to work at Mississippi hospitals, the report said.

4. The plan calls for $20 million to help nursing/allied health community college programs. Federal pandemic funds would be used initially, the report said.

5. It would provide $5 million in federal pandemic money to help with hospital residency and fellowship programs, the report said. It would help either create new residency and fellowship programs or add capacity to existing ones in medical or surgical specialty areas at Mississippi hospitals. Mr. Hosemann said the federal government offers reimbursement for some residents or fellowships, but the startup costs are prohibitive, and this new plan would help.

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