According to a news article published in the Daily Journal on June 18, an analysis conducted by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation lists Mississippi among the 11 states who are the most likely to have trouble adapting to the changes in Medicaid funding proposed in the American Health Care Act passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. According to Therese Hanna, executive director of the non-partisan Center for Mississippi Health Care Policy, the Kaiser findings are similar to those of other organizations. Based on a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid report, health care spending makes up 21 percent of the Mississippi economy, and Medicaid is 20 percent of that. The state receives nearly 75 cents in federal funds for every $1 spent in the program to take care of poor children, their caregivers, pregnant women, the disabled and elderly.
Proposed cuts will result in hard choices which usually mean bad consequences, if you happen to be poor. In this case, the consequences could well extend beyond the poorest. If health care spending constitutes 21 percent of Mississippi’s economy and Medicaid is 20 percent of that, jobs in the health care field and related areas such as drug and medical equipment stores could be negatively impacted.
According to a report by Associated Press released on June 18, The Mississippi State Personnel Board approved plans for the Department of Mental Health to lay off 125 workers at four facilities, part of an overall plan by the agency to trim employment by 650. Those facing lay-offs include three employees at the North Mississippi Regional Center in Oxford. Their termination eliminates evaluations and therapeutic services to children younger than 3. This is the result of state budget cuts and not the anticipated changes in Medicaid. What that will bring, no one knows.
Lives are on the line and those who are most likely to be at risk for loss of services are those who are the least likely to be heard. Educators, social workers, health providers, business and faith leaders should take the lead in speaking out for our children when decisions have to be made concerning the impact changes in Medicaid and additional possible state budget cuts will have on services in our state. Over the next few months, discussions and decisions will be taking place. Unless citizens take the time to talk to state and federal legislators now, we will be too late.
Where you are born, the year of your birth and if your family makes a living wage could be considered like a game of chance, but growing up healthy should not be a gamble. If the child loses, we all pay, it is just a question of whether it will be sooner or later.
By Dr. Cathy Grace