Maternal deaths and disparities increase in Mississippi

AP News

Deaths from pregnancy complications have become more prevalent in Mississippi, and racial disparities in the health of those who give birth have widened in recent years, according to a report released Thursday by the state’s Department of Health. The Mississippi Maternal Mortality Report shows that the maternal mortality rate increased by 8.8% between 2013‐2016 and 2017‐2019, with the latter period being the most recent one analyzed by researchers. Black, non-Hispanic women had a rate four times higher than white, non-Hispanic women. Meanwhile, the rate increased by 25% for Black women while falling 14% among white women. Of the maternal deaths directly related to pregnancy, 87.5% were determined to be preventable.

1st legal medical marijuana sales are made in Mississippi

AP News

Patients have started buying medical marijuana in Mississippi, nearly a year after the products were legalized in the state. The Mississippi Medical Marijuana Association said in a news release Thursday that the first purchases happened Wednesday at The Cannabis Company in Brookhaven and at two dispensaries in Oxford — Hybrid Relief and Star Buds. “We have been working since 2018 to get medical marijuana in the hands of patients in Mississippi, and it’s surreal to see it finally come to fruition,” Ken Newburger, executive director of the association, said in the release. “This is only the beginning. More and more businesses will be harvesting, testing, and getting their products on the shelves in the coming months.”

Mississippi’s already troubling maternal mortality rate is worsening

Mississippi Today

A new report released Thursday by the Mississippi State Department of Health shows that the state’s maternal mortality rate — already one of the highest in America — is worsening. The report, conducted by 28 health care professionals and advocates who make up the Mississippi Mortality Review Committee, weighed the state’s maternal mortality data from 2017-2019. The most recent state report was released three years ago and weighed data from 2013-2016. Three years ago, Mississippi’s pregnancy-related mortality ratio was 33.2 deaths per 100,000 live births — the sixth-worst rate in America. But this week’s new report showed the state’s pregnancy-related mortality ratio had increased to 36.0 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Advocates say licensed midwives could help Mississippi’s maternity care desert. Bills appear dead

Mississippi Today

Advocates say pending legislation on midwifery could help alleviate Mississippi’s lack of maternity health care and protect mothers and babies from those practicing without proper training. But Senate Bill 2793 and House Bill 1081 are likely going to die without a vote in committee this session, as legislative leaders say they need more time to study the issue. More than half of Mississippi’s 82 counties are considered “maternity care deserts,” with no hospitals providing obstetric care and no OB-GYNs. Advocates say trained midwives could help this shortage of care for low-risk pregnancies, but say the state should license and regulate them. With the overturning of Roe v. Wade and a ban on abortions in Mississippi, advocates say trained midwives could help with the expected increase of thousands of deliveries a year for a health care system that is already woefully inadequate.

A coalition of Mississippi advocates is calling for Strong Babies and Healthy Mothers

Mississippi Public Broadcasting

Mississippi’s senate has recently advanced a bill out of committee that could extend postpartum Medicaid benefits from a maximum of six weeks to twelve months. A similar measure gained traction last year, but it was never taken up in the House and died on the calendar. Brittany Lampkin of Bentonia works in corrections and says she relied on postpartum Medicaid benefits in the weeks after giving birth. But she says those benefits were gone when she needed them most. “Six weeks after I had my last baby, experiencing the trauma of losing her, it was really tough having to just go back, get up, put that smile back on. Especially in the environment that I work in,” says Lampkin. Mississippi is one of 14 states not to expand postpartum care. Doctors claim the extension could keep families healthy and inject capital into a financially unstable healthcare system. Among the coalition of activists calling on the legislature to extend postpartum Medicaid is Cassandra Welchlin, Executive Director of the Mississippi Black Women’s Round Table. She says postpartum care isn’t just an issue that would affect mothers.

Maternal health matters for Mississippi moms and babies

DeSoto County News

We hear the statistics so often that they do not really seem to matter anymore. Mississippi is number one in the nation in infant mortality rate, premature birth rate, fetal demise rate, low birthweight rate and on and on. Our maternal mortality rate is double the national average.  Fewer children in Mississippi make it to their first birthday than in any other state. The numbers are daunting but consequently small changes can make a huge impact. A program like 12-month postpartum care for eligible mothers could have a big impact on our national rankings and the welfare of our mothers and babies.  We have a real opportunity to help families in Mississippi. Approximately 65 percent of babies born in Mississippi are born to moms on Medicaid. As a pediatrician practicing in South  Mississippi, I can tell you that many of these moms are working moms. They are teachers,  preachers, college students, waitresses, and more. Extending Medicaid to 12 months  postpartum will not deter them from working. Postpartum care is not paid maternity leave or a  cash payment of any sort. The program simply provides them with much needed health insurance that allows women to access much needed health care services during this critical  time.

Democrats finalize hospital crisis plan, blast Republicans for inaction

Mississippi Today

Democratic legislative leaders will propose a plan this week to address a problem they say most of their Republican counterparts won’t even fully acknowledge: the Mississippi hospital crisis. State health officials have warned lawmakers that 38 rural hospitals across the state are in danger of imminent closure because of budget problems. Some of those hospitals are larger regional care centers, such as Greenwood Leflore Hospital. Even the large metro hospitals are understaffed and struggling to provide adequate care due to rising costs. Physicians and other health care leaders are sounding the alarm about the entire state’s ability to maintain a reliable system of care. Given the growing urgency of the crisis, Democratic leaders under the dome say they can’t wait around for their Republican counterparts to propose solutions. “I feel silly trying to explain to (Republicans) why we need to do something about this quickly when the need is right there smacking them in the face every single day,” said Rep. Robert Johnson, the House Democratic leader. “These people have the best possible access to the best possible information about the state, and they’re ignoring it. They’re running away from the problem. The house is fully on fire right now, but it’s fine because Republicans say it’s not really burning.

Welfare scandal sharpens contrasts in long-poor Mississippi

Associated Press

In Mississippi, where elected officials have a long history of praising self-sufficiency and condemning federal antipoverty programs, a welfare scandal has exposed how millions of dollars were diverted to the rich and powerful — including pro athletes — instead of helping some of the neediest people in the nation. The misuse of welfare money rankles Nsombi Lambright-Haynes, executive director of One Voice, a nonprofit that works to help economically vulnerable communities in Mississippi. “It’s shameful and disgusting, especially when we’ve been a state where we hear discussion every year about poor people not needing resources and poor people being lazy and just needing to get up to work,” she said. The state has ranked among the poorest in the U.S. for decades, but only a fraction of its federal welfare money has been going toward direct aid to families. Instead, the Mississippi Department of Human Services allowed well-connected people to fritter away tens of millions of welfare dollars from 2016 to 2019, according to the state auditor and state and federal prosecutors. Former Human Services Director John Davis has pleaded guilty to charges tied to welfare misspending in one of the state’s largest public corruption cases. The scandal has ensnared high-profile figures, including retired NFL quarterback Brett Favre, who is one of more than three dozen defendants in a civil lawsuit that the current Human Services director filed to try to recover some of the welfare money wasted while Davis was in charge.

Session outlook: lawmakers to take on infrastructure, tax rebates and Medicaid expansion during session

Northside Sun

Senator J. Walter Michel represents District 25 and also serves as the chairman for the Senate Insurance Committee. Many of his accomplishments in the 2022 Legislative Session revolved around this committee and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and he hopes to see more bills come from these two areas in 2023. This year, the insurance committee has a piece of legislation they are working on called Prior Authorization. Currently, if a person in Mississippi needs a medical procedure, the insurance company wants the doctor to pre-authorize the procedure before they’ll agree to pay for it. This can cause delays in getting the patient that procedure. The committee is working to allow doctors who have a very successful rate with certain procedures to receive “a gold card status,” which means they won’t have to get prior approval with the insurance company before they do the procedure. “The doctor has the right to go ahead and do the procedure and be reimbursed by the health insurance plan, and the insurance company still has the right at the end of the six months to audit all of the operations that were done to see if there was one or two that might have been done,” Michel said. “It streamlines the process and speeds it up.”

LOCAL legislators speak: Initiative, income tax possible issues for Mississippi Legislature

The Vicksburg Post

With the Mississippi Legislature getting ready to enter its second week, some holdovers from the 2022 session could be back on the table. The Legislature closed 2022 with some unfinished business in the form of a revised ballot initiative bill that failed to clear both houses before the session ended and the elimination of the state’s income tax. The House and Senate failed to reach an agreement on a ballot initiative bill, to replace the present law that was struck down by the Mississippi Supreme Court in a suit filed by the city of Madison to overturn Initiative 65. In November 2020, voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative Measure 65, a citizen-driven ballot initiative. Initiative 65 would have amended the Mississippi Constitution to create a state medical marijuana program. However, on May 14, 2021, the Mississippi Supreme Court overturned Initiative 65, ruling that the state election law governing voter ballot initiatives was out-of-date and unworkable.  

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