Talk to any hospital administrator in Lauderdale County, and he or she will communicate that the hospital emergency rooms are already providing coverage to the uninsured. They will also tell you that it’s the most expensive and inefficient form of care and that the uninsured often enter their facilities with ailments and diseases that if diagnosed earlier would have been much less expensive to treat.
Unfortunately, policy changes at the federal level have rendered this approach unsustainable. Scheduled reductions in payments to hospitals to provide care to the uninsured will force layoffs and service cuts at Meridian’s hospitals if another source of revenue is not found. The expansion of Medicaid through the private insurance market is one of the only ways to replace part of the lost revenue at meaningful levels.
The situation is direr in rural areas. Approximately half of the hospitals in Mississippi are losing money or just breaking even. In the absence of a means to pay for the provision of care to the uninsured – as required by law – over a dozen hospitals in Mississippi could face closure. The hospitals most at risk are located in rural communities.
The economic consequences of losing a hospital are serious. Often one of the largest employers in many rural towns, when people lose their job at the hospital, other small businesses in the community suffer as less money is spent locally. Furthermore, a rural community without a hospital is at a severe disadvantage when trying to recruit industry.
Ed Sivack – MEPC