Not accepting funding will lead to suffering

Published 7:00 am Friday, April 25, 2014

By Agnes Dalton

The recent article by the Item regarding cuts to personnel at the Pearl River County Hospital/ Nursing Home created an excellent segue into our next article.

Acceptance of Federal Healthcare funds would benefit the Mississippi economy, small businesses, hospitals/nursing homes and the most vulnerable of our citizens, the working poor.

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Acceptance of Federal Healthcare funds would level the playing field for Mississippi small businesses in a couple of ways.  The funds would cover 300,000 low wage earning workers.  Small businesses, who cannot afford to offer their employees health care coverage could draw from this pool of newly covered workers, enabling them to compete with big businesses with healthcare packages.

Federal funds, like a new factory, would pump new money into our economy.   An estimated $8.6 million of Federal funds are available for fiscal years 2014 – 2020.  The economy would generate $257 million in cumulative additions to general fund as revenue.  That money could be spread between the 82 counties to assist their financial difficulties.  The money also increases income for all types of healthcare providers including hospitals/employees, doctors/nurses, and medical suppliers.  Jobs created by the federal funds would add $673.8 in labor income.  Acceptance would help reduce the “hidden tax.”  Someone without insurance, who seeks care they cannot afford, creates what is known as a hidden tax.  To cover that tax, insurers charge higher rates to insured persons receiving care.  The increase gets shifted to higher rates. In 2008, uncompensated cost increased family health insurance by an estimated $1,017. Reducing the number of uninsured in Mississippi will lower the cost to the insured resident and business owner.

Failure to accept the Federal funds means hospitals, particularly in rural areas will suffer and may be forced to cut back or close.  The hospitals, expecting all states to put the care of their citizens above politics, voluntarily agreed to cuts in payments currently paid through Medicare and Medicaid to cover the uninsured.  Those cuts are now happening despite the decision by many Republican lead states not to accept funds.  This will now create a “Domino Effect.”  Doctors depend on hospitals to build a foundation for their practice.  Without functioning hospitals, doctors may leave or decide not to come to a community in the first place. It is estimated loss of a doctor’s office could cost a community $500,000 and 5 jobs.  It is also estimated that 15 to 20% of jobs in a rural area are in healthcare.  Statewide the number could reach thousands of jobs lost.

In a report by the State Budget Solutions Group, a national organization focusing on fiscal responsibility revealed that Mississippi accepted the highest percentage of federal funds than any other state for the period of 2001 – 2012. On average, more than 45% of Mississippi’s budget comes from Washington D.C.  If we can accept funds for highways, Flood Insurance, USDA/Farm Bill and much more, why can’t we accept federal funds that help the most needy of our citizens obtain the healthcare they need while helping our hospitals and creating jobs.  It’s time to ask Gov. Bryant and his party why the selective acceptance of federal funds.