As emergency federal pandemic funds for hospitals are dwindling, the health care crisis in Mississippi is progressing, according to a statement put out Tuesday by the Mississippi State Medical Association.

The physicians group is calling on lawmakers and state leaders to act quickly to offset the burden of hospitals in the state caring for uninsured patients. Mississippi, one of only 11 states not to expand Medicaid and provide health insurance for hundreds of thousands of residents, has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the nation.

When hospitals care for these individuals, they are not reimbursed by any insurance company and incur a deficit referred to as “uncompensated care.” In 2021, hospitals statewide sustained almost $600 million in uncompensated care costs, according to the Mississippi Hospital Association. That is almost double the amount from 2010.

The statement from MSMA referred to hospitals on the brink of closure and the coverage gap created by the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid.

“The fact is there is a sizable gap that exists for working Mississippians who cannot afford private health insurance, yet whose income is too much to qualify for Mississippi Medicaid. When these individuals need healthcare, hospitals are required to treat them regardless of their ability to pay … Such an economic strain on hospitals is one that even the most successful private business could not endure,” the MSMA opinion stated.

The group urged five quick actions:

  • Raise the income eligibility for Medicaid.
  • Offset taxes hospitals currently pay.
  • Restructure health care delivery across Mississippi, which may include strategically located critical access hospitals, emergency care, etc. and a re-structured referral system to hospitals when higher levels of care are required.
  • Consider Arkansas’ model to provide access to care for working Mississippians through the purchase of private insurance for qualified recipients.
  • Enhance preventative care measures for all Medicaid recipients by implementing an “accountable care” payment model.

MSMA is the largest physician advocacy organization in the state, representing nearly 5,000 physicians and medical students.

Read the full statement here.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.