Some bills aimed at helping Mississippi hospitals are still in play at the State Capitol

Published: Feb. 13, 2023 at 7:39 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There are still bills at play aimed at giving new lifelines to hospitals around the state.

“Just like you know, in a hospital, you’re trying to save the patient first, and so that infusion of grant money is intended to try to help save those hospitals, give them a lifeline to get through the next year or so,” explained Mississippi Hospital Association General Counsel and Vice President of Policy and State Advocacy.

Right now, Senate Bill 2372 would make $80 million in grant funds available. However, the bill’s author says that could change.

The CEO of the Covington, Simpson, and Magee hospitals Greg Gibbes is hopeful lawmakers won’t equate size with need.

“Typically, these programs are split up based on bed count,” described Gibbes. “And so you know, most of the smaller hospitals, of course, have the lowest number of beds. Hopefully, we can prioritize the small rural hospitals, in particular, and receive a higher percentage of this grant.”

Gibbes’ group hospitals are an example of successful existing collaboration. Small community hospitals are the focus of another bill still in play.

“We’re going to sort of erase these invisible barriers,” noted Sen. Joey Fillingane, author of Senate Bill 2323. “So right now, it’s like the Goldilocks mentality. You have to be not too close together, but not too far apart. You have to be just right sort of in that sweet spot.”

The bill will make mergers or partnerships easier, regardless of geographic location.

The most recent report last month showed an improved outlook for rural hospitals in jeopardy of closing. It showed 28 at risk of closure, equaling 38 percent of those in the state. Nineteen of those are at risk of immediate closure, equaling 26 percent overall. However, that doesn’t mean all the others are in great financial shape.

“Over the last five years, Mississippi, there are less than about 15 hospitals that have finished in the black every one of those five years,” noted Roberson. “So, even though expenses are low, revenue is even lower. That’s been the huge challenge that we’ve had in Mississippi for over five years, really.”

Roberson explains that, like everywhere, the cost to do business has gone up. But hospitals can’t get their payers to pay more because most of the payments in Mississippi come from either Medicare or Medicaid. They have another substantial percentage of the population with no form of payment at all, and they’re unable to pay their bills. All of those factors make it challenging to keep up with the rising costs.

Another House bill is also designed to establish a grant program for hospitals. It’s also still alive after the last deadline day. We’ll keep following these through the process.

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