The number of babies in Mississippi being treated for congenital syphilis has jumped by more than 900% over five years, uprooting the progress the nation’s poorest state had made in nearly quashing what experts say is an avoidable public health crisis. The rise in cases has placed newborns at further risk of life-threatening harm in a state that’s already home to the nation’s worstinfant mortality rate. In 2021, 102 newborns in Mississippi were treated for the sexually transmitted disease, up from 10 in 2016, according to an analysis of hospital billing data shared by Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the medical director for the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Crossroads Clinic in Jackson, which focuses on sexually transmitted infections.
Local leadership in the Delta says the region’s crumbling health system has been abandoned by the state – so they’re figuring out how to fix it on their own with the help of federal funds. Greenville’s mayor and a local health clinic say they’re working to give people in the Delta better access to doctors and primary care, as hospitals around them shutter and strip back specialty care. As a result, the city of Greenville received $2 million in federal funds to construct a new health clinic in partnership with the Delta Health Center.
he House Republican majority rejected a Medicaid expansion amendment on the floor Wednesday that supporters said would aid the state’s struggling hospitals. The amendment, offered Wednesday by House Minority Leader Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, would have prevented the appropriation for the Mississippi Division of Medicaid from going into effect until Medicaid was expanded to provide health care coverage for the working poor. The amendment was supported by 41 Democrats and one independent. Five Republicans and one independent did not vote.
Mississippi Free Press
Standing inside a shuttered hospital’s abandoned emergency room in Newton County, Miss., on Monday night, Democratic candidate for governor Brandon Presley blamed Gov. Tate Reeves for the fact that more than half of the state’s rural hospitals are in danger of closing. “This is the reality that Tate Reeves has chosen to put us in. Make no mistake, he made this choice,” Presley, a public service commissioner who hopes to unseat Reeves in this year’s elections, said in a video he released on YouTube Monday night. Earlier that day, Reeves had delivered his annual State of the State address on the Capitol steps in Jackson, where he reiterated his opposition to expanding Medicaid—a policy that many state health-care leaders, Democrats, and some Republicans say would save lives and prevent more ailing hospitals from closing.
Former University of Mississippi Chancellor Dan Jones said that Gov. Tate Reeves once told him in a meeting that he understood how Medicaid expansion would benefit the state but couldn’t agree to champion it for political reasons. Jones, who led the state’s largest hospital, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, before he served as chancellor from 2009-2015, divulged details of the 2013 or 2014 meeting during a Thursday press conference with Democratic legislative leaders about the Republican leadership’s inaction on addressing the state’s hospital crisis. “A little while after I began explaining the benefits of Medicaid expansion, he (Reeves) put his hand up and said, ‘Chancellor, I recognize it would be good for Mississippians, good for our economy, good for health care if we expanded Medicaid,’” Jones recalled. “I had a big smile on my face and said, ‘I’m so glad to hear you’re going to support expansion.’ His response, ‘Oh no, I’m not going to support it because it’s not in my personal political interest.’”
Mississippi’s Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said in a private conversation that expanding Medicaid to people working low-wage jobs would be in the best interest of the state, but that he refuses to support the policy for political reasons, a former chancellor of the University of Mississippi said Thursday. Dr. Dan Jones is a physician who led the University of Mississippi Medical Center before serving as chancellor of the university from 2009 to 2015. During a news conference organized by Democratic state lawmakers on Thursday, Jones said that Reeves acknowledged in a private conversation with him in 2013 or 2014 that expanding Medicaid would benefit Mississippi’s economy, and provide health care to more residents of a state bedeviled by poor health outcomes.
The Mississippi Senate voted Friday to ease some restrictions on community-owned hospitals by letting them consolidate or collaborate with health care facilities outside their current service areas. Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane, of Sumrall, said the bill is an effort to maintain access to health care in a state where several hospitals face financial difficulties because they serve large numbers of uninsured patients. “There’s all sorts of barriers that we’re trying to eliminate to allow these hospitals to have as much flexibility as they can in order survive and thrive,” Fillingane said.
Q&A: Rep. Missy McGee calls postpartum Medicaid expansion ‘most impactful thing’ state can do for women and children
tate Rep. Missy McGee, R-Hattiesburg, says it’s her mission to advocate for women as one of few females in the Mississippi Legislature. Health Editor Kate Royals met with McGee to talk about her experiences as a lawmaker and her push to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage for new moms in Mississippi. Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Kate Royals: Tell me a bit about yourself – as a woman, a mom, a relatively new lawmaker.
Mississippi state senators passed a bill Tuesday that would let mothers keep Medicaid coverage for a year after giving birth, up from the current two months. “This is the exact same bill that we passed last session three times 45-5,” said Sen. Kevin Blackwell, a Republican from Southaven. State senators voted last year for an extension, but it failed in the House amid opposition from the Republican House Speaker, Phillip Gunn. The speaker said he did not want to advance anything that would appear to be a broader expansion of Medicaid. This year, he has said that he would back the extension only if it is supported by the state Division of Medicaid. Supporters of the policy, including the state health officer, have said it would help improve health outcomes in Mississippi, where deaths from pregnancy complications have become more prevalent. A report released by the state health department in January showed that Mississippi’s maternal mortality rate has risen in recent years.
The state Senate on Thursday unanimously approved a program to give grants to Mississippi’s struggling hospitals, but the amount of money for the proposed grants is yet-to-be determined as the measure heads to the House. “This is still a work in progress,” Senate Medicaid Chairman Kevin Blackwell, R-Southaven, told colleagues. “We are waiting on more information from the Hospital Association … We were initially looking at $80 million. Hospitals say they would like $230 million. We want to know what their situation was prior to COVID, what happened during it, and what their plans for the future are, so we don’t end up back in the same place. Before they come asking for a pot of gold from the Legislature, we want to know what they will do with it and what they will be doing for the future.” Senate Bill 2372, the Mississippi Hospital Sustainability Grant Program, is headed to the House, but with many details yet to be worked out, including how much of the state’s remaining federal pandemic relief money would be used. House Speaker Philip Gunn has said he supports helping hospitals with American Rescue Plan Act money, of which the state has about $400 million remaining.