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Time to try new ways to boost state economy

September 10, 2016, Sun Herald, Editorial Board- To say we are perplexed by last week’s state budget adjustment would be an understatement. It was another accounting error. A $56.8 million accounting error. And further cuts in many state agency budgets. That’s unsettling enough, but it was the second paragraph of his explanation that was the head-scratcher. “It is important to remember that general fund spending has increased 26 percent, five times the rate of inflation, the last four years,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “That kind of growth over such a short period of time is simply unsustainable.”

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A Good Dentist Is Hard To Find In Rural America

September 12, 2016,, Alison Kodjak- Jessica Stefonik is grinning. She’s got a bounce in her step. Her cheeks are a little puffy and her speech is a bit thick. “It feels weird right now, but I’ll get used to it,” she says. What she’s trying to get used to is the feeling of having teeth. On the day we met, Stefonik, a mom of three from Mosinee, Wis., got a set of dentures to replace all of her upper teeth, which she lost over many years to disease and decay. Stefonik is just 31 years old. She’s one of millions of people who are poor and live in rural America and have little to no access to dental care.

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State of Working Mississippi reveals alarming statistics

September 8, 2016, WDAM, Steve Phillips-  According to a new report by the Jesuit Social Research Institute of Loyola University in New Orleans, African-American workers make nearly 30 percent less than whites in Mississippi. Around 100,000 working families in the state are without health care. The disturbing findings in the report made public on Thursday outline wage disparities among class, gender, and race. “Growing income inequality has left low and middle class workers in Mississippi without wage increases since the Great Recession,” said Father Fred Kammer, director of the Jesuit Social Research Institute. “While the highest earning workers have enjoyed significant growth in wages.”

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Bryant orders more budget cuts

September 8, 2016, The Clarion Ledger, Geoff Pender- Gov. Phil Bryant is ordering cuts averaging about 1.6 percent to most state agencies’ budgets to cover a $57 million “accounting error” lawmakers discovered after they set the $6 billion state budget for the fiscal year that began in July. Bryant said he is not recommending pulling more money from the state “rainy day fund” as he did when he ordered two rounds of cuts late in fiscal 2016 and had to call a special session of the Legislature to allow him to pull more money from state savings to cover revenue shortfalls. On top of the cuts Bryant has made, lawmakers cut most state budgets for fiscal 2017, some by double digit percentages.

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State Medical Association wants expanded medical coverage

September 7, 2016, MPB, Sid Scott- The Mississippi Medical Association is endorsing expanded medical coverage for more people in the state. But the Association failed to support Medicaid expansion at its recent annual meeting. About 20 percent of Mississippians don’t have health insurance—with African Americans making up most of that number. Gov. Phil Bryant opposes Medicaid expansion—as do many legislators. Some in favor of expansion say by not doing this the state is effectively turning down more than $14 billion from the federal government over the course of a decade. We spoke with Doctor Lee Voulters—president of the Mississippi Medical Association and a neurologist in Gulfport. He says the Association originally called for Medicaid expansion at its recent annually meeting—then backed off that position.

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Uninsured rate falls below 9 percent for first time

September 7, 2016, The Hill, Peter Sullivan- The uninsured rate fell to a new record low of 8.6 percent in the first quarter of the year, according to government data, continuing a steep drop under ObamaCare. The new survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that the uninsured rate fell from 14.4 percent in 2013, before ObamaCare’s coverage provisions went into effect, to 8.6 percent in January to March of this year.

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The states with the biggest Obamacare struggles spent years undermining the law

September 7, 2016, LA Times, Noam Levey- As insurers exit Obamacare marketplaces across the country, critics of the Affordable Care Act have redoubled claims that the health law isn’t working. Yet these same critics, many of them Republican politicians in red states, took steps over the last several years to undermine the 2010 law and fuel the current turmoil in their insurance markets. Among other things, they blocked expansion of Medicaid coverage for the poor, erected barriers to enrollment and refused to move health plans into the Obamacare marketplaces, a key step to bringing in healthier consumers.

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Lack Of Medicaid Expansion Hurts Rural Hospitals More Than Urban Facilities

September 7, 2016, Kaiser Health News, Shefali Luthra- It isn’t news that in rural parts of the country, people have a harder time accessing good health care. But new evidence suggests opposition to a key part of the 2010 health overhaul could be adding to the gap. The finding comes from a study published Wednesday in the journal Health Affairs, which analyzes how the states’ decisions on implementing the federal health law’s expansion of Medicaid, a federal-state insurance program for low-income people, may be influencing rural hospitals’ financial stability. Nineteen states opted not to join the expansion.

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‘Simple Choice Plans’ To Debut In 2017 Marketplace Enrollment

September 2, 2016, Kaiser Health News, Michelle Andrews- Despite much hand-wringing about health insurers exiting the marketplaces where people buy individual coverage, in many areas consumers will likely still have a choice of plans when the 2017 open enrollment starts in November. Aiming to make picking a plan easier, the federal government, which runs the marketplaces in roughly two-thirds of states, is encouraging insurers to offer “simple choice plans” as an option this fall.

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Magnolia Health to expand exchange coverage to all 82 counties

September 1, 2016, Mississippi Business Journal, Jack Weatherly-  Magnolia Health Care will offer insurance in all 82 of Mississippi’s counties through the federal insurance exchange starting Jan. 1, state Health Commissioner Mike Chaney said Thursday.The news comes as UnitedHealthcare will pull out from the exchange at the end of the year. The insurer, which had expanded its coverage to all counties this year, announced its intentions in April because of major losses it is sustaining through exchanges across the nation set up in the Affordable Care Act. UnitedHealthcare said it sustained losses of $475 million in 2015 and projected a $650 million loss for 2016.

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