State Health Officer estimates that 38 out of Mississippi’s 111 hospitals are at risk of closing in the near term.

On Tuesday, the Mississippi Senate held a Public Health and Welfare Committee meeting with the goal of looking into possible solutions to address the financial crisis being felt by hospitals in the state.

The meeting was led by Chairman of the Public Health and Welfare committee, Senator Hob Bryan. He began the hearing by discussing some thoughts he had after being made aware of issues and how they are impacting many of the state’s hospitals.

“In my opinion, what we need is somebody somewhere in state government, who is charged with the notion of what we want healthcare to look like now, five, ten years down the road. How can we bring that about and how do we plan for it,” said Senator Bryan.

Most recently, the Greenwood Leflore Hospital, a city and county owned system, has made headlines when they were forced to majorly scale down operations due to lack of revenue. This included major layoffs to staff. It has been estimated that it would take roughly $5 to $10 million in order for the hospital to stay open and operating through the next year.

Since 2010, six hospitals have closed in Mississippi, with six more filing bankruptcy. In the last two years, two of the six locations that closed have reopened under different operating measures.

Individuals representing the Mississippi Hospital Association (MHA) presented data to the Senators regarding various financial reports pertaining to all Mississippi hospitals, including what revenue is received from an individual, insurance agencies, Medicaid, Medicare and other sources.

According to Richard Roberson with MHA, prior to the pandemic, hospitals were already “under water” to the tune of roughly $132 million annually. All hospitals in the state have reported a loss of $600 million yearly of uncompensated care. This accounts for 12 to 15 percent of hospital budgets.

MHA offered six possible solutions to the financial and economic crisis that has been taking place. Tim Moore, President and CEO of MHA, said it will have to be a combination of several avenues to create a reasonable solution, noting that there is not one option that will fix it all.

Solutions offered by MHA for the revenue issues include:

  • Reduce or eliminate Hospital Provider Tax
  • Increase supplemental payments to reflect average rates not a percentage of Medicare
  • Create Low Income Payment Pools
  • Implement Rural Hospital Access Payment Program
  • Reduce admin costs by expediting Physican Assistant process or providing gold card status and implementing other favorable insurance reforms
  • Increase health coverage through Medicaid or other programs.

Dr. Daniel Edney, State Health Officer, said he anticipates more healthcare issues to pop up across the Delta outside of the Greenwood Leflore Hospital situation. However, when that strain is put on the healthcare system it will be felt far outside of that region if solutions are not found.

“Access to care across the state is a distinct public health issue,” said Edney.

There are currently 111 hospitals operating in Mississippi, with 60 of those being Acute Hospitals and 31 serving as Critical Access Hospitals. Edney said it is estimated that 38 of the rural hospitals statewide are in danger of immediate cuts in service or closures in the near term.