Miss. hospital group opposes tax for Medicaid

Published 12:41 am Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Mississippi Hospital Association is opposed to Gov. Haley Barbour’s proposed $90 million hospital tax to help pay for a Medicaid shortfall.

MHA president Sam Cameron said Thursday his members are facing larger numbers of uninsured and Medicaid patients at their doors and a decrease in revenue because of the weakening economy.

Barbour has been saying for more than a year that there is a $90 million shortfall in Medicaid, the government health program for the needy, aged, blind and disabled and for low-income families with children.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Barbour is urging legislators to restructure and revive a tax that hospitals paid for about a dozen years to help fund Medicaid.

For every dollar Mississippi puts into Medicaid, the federal government spends about $3. So, a $90 million state shortfall translates into a $360 million loss when federal money is included. The hospital tax had been used to pay for some of the state’s share to bring in federal dollars.

The federal government told Mississippi to stop using the hospital tax in 2005. Since then, state officials have used a variety of sources to help cover the shortfall, including federal hurricane recovery money that was designated for Medicaid.

Cameron and the MHA have taken issue with Barbour over whether there ever was a tax previously. Cameron insists what Barbour is proposing is a new tax.

Cameron said 43 percent of the state’s hospitals operate at zero profit or are losing money.

The tax is “totally not fair to the patients and the people who pay the bills for hospital care,” he said.

Hospitals already pay $150 million a year to assist the state with its match of the federal Medicaid payments, said Cameron.

Cameron and the MHA have proposed a $45 million tax with federal stimulus money used to pay the remainder.

Barbour said in a statement Thursday said that the hospital association and its allies in the Legislature are creating a budget shortfall.

“The Mississippi Hospital Association wants Mississippi taxpayers to shoulder a $90 million tax break for its members, plain and simple. Reinstatement of the $90 million tax hospitals willingly paid for 15 years is a critical part of balancing the state budget and providing a fair, permanent, sustainable funding source for Medicaid.

“Without it, the hospital association and its legislative allies, mostly in the House, are about to create a Medicaid funding shortfall, deep provider cuts or cuts to other state agencies of epic proportions,” Barbour said.

Lawmakers have not reached agreement on a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The Legislature returns to the Capitol on Tuesday.