Monday at the Capitol, Mississippi Hospitals proposed a new plan called “Mississippi Cares.” 

According to the proposal, the program would cover up to 300,000 uninsured people who are not eligible for Medicare.

Mississippi Cares would cover non-disabled adults age 19-64 earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level (currently approximately $17,000 for an individual or $35,000 for a family of four). Due to the foresight of Republicans passing the Restore Hope Act in 2017, Mississippi already has a process in place to ensure compliance with these income standards.

This proposal emphasizes personal responsibility and healthcare consumerism. Plan participants would contribute $20/month in premium payments, with a $100 co-pay for non-emergency use of a hospital emergency department if there is a federally qualified health center, rural health clinic, or urgent care center within 20 miles of the hospital.  Other co-pays and plan benefits will mirror traditional fee-for-service Medicaid, with the exception of non-emergency transportation services. Dental and vision benefits will also be included. Non-employed plan members must enroll in a job training, education, or volunteer program, with certain exceptions.

In essence, it is a proposal for Medicaid expansion. However, due to the private-public partnership, it shouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime.

“Uncompensated care costs in Mississippi are exceeding $600 million annually. Mississippi is among the highest in the country in medical debt.  Not because our costs are too high – we rank in the bottom third in the country for health care expenditures per person – but because our need for healthcare is so great and our means to pay for that needed care is so low,” said Timothy H. Moore, President/Chief Executive Officer of the Mississippi Hospital Association, the state’s trade association for hospitals. “Healthcare is a quality of life issue.  Many working adults have no health insurance coverage in our state. If Mississippi is going to improve the quality of life for our citizens, we can’t continue to do the same thing the same way and expect a different result.  Plain and simple, what we’re doing, particularly in our Medicaid program, isn’t working. We need Medicaid reform.”

MHA claims that the plan would create over 19,000 jobs and spur nearly $100 million in revenue while also increasing $600 million in personal income. They say that uninsured patients who are unable to pay for emergency care put an added stress on hospitals, causing some to close due to lack of payment. The plan is to be paid for by hospitals and matched federal dollars.

According to WJTV, Association CEO Timothy Moore says he met with Governor Phil Bryant and the Medicaid Director Drew Snyder on the plan, but it wasn’t implemented.

“Well you know we feel like if you look across the state of Mississippi and you look at the support that’s in this room that it’s time to move forward with it — I think probably our administration our leadership needs to understand there’s a lot of support in Mississippi to move forward with a plan like this.”

Under a special Medicaid waiver request, Mississippi hospitals would make an additional investment in the premiums needed to fund insurance coverage through a hospital-owned provider-sponsored health plan, Mississippi True. Due to hospital and participant investment, this plan will not cost the state any additional dollars. Hospital investments and personal premiums from plan members would fund the needed 10% state share to match the 90% federal share.

In 2015, the Mississippi legislature overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 2441 to create Mississippi True with overwhelming Republican support. The bill recognized that provider-sponsored health plans are a vehicle for improving the delivery of Medicaid in our state, currently monopolized by out-of-state, for-profit companies. Mississippi True has already obtained a license from the Mississippi Department of Insurance. Well-established provider-led plans have demonstrated that they can improve health outcomes and spend less on their own administrative costs.

MHA says since 2015, E.R. visits have gone up 155 percent for Medicaid patients, with costs rising nearly 50 percent.

Candidate for Governor Bill Waller had this to say on the proposal:

“I have pushed for access to quality health care since the beginning of my campaign. We have 31 hospitals in Mississippi in danger of closing. I am in favor of using conservative principles to reform our health system just like Vice President Mike Pence did as Governor of Indiana, and that has been adopted in Arkansas and other states. The proposed Mississippi Cares plan will similarly address these issues by increasing access to care without putting taxpayers at risk.”