What Mississippians Are Reading: Tate Reeves’ Healthcare Crisis and Brandon Presley’s Plan To Save Hospitals
Healthcare Professionals For Presley Launched Following The Announcement Of Presley’s Historic Healthcare Plan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 17, 2023
Nettleton – This week, Brandon Presley unveiled his healthcare plan to end Tate Reeves’ healthcare crisis and make healthcare more transparent and affordable for Mississippi families.
Yesterday, the Presley for Governor campaign also launched Healthcare Professionals for Presley. This group of healthcare professionals is committed to ensuring Mississippi has a governor that will fight to make healthcare affordable so Mississippians can get the healthcare they need and keep Mississippi’s hospitals open. They joined the Mississippi Hospital Association (MHA) in supporting Brandon Presley because they know he will fight for the health and well-being of all Mississippians.
The release of Presley’s healthcare plan comes as the news that KPC Promise Hospital in Vicksburg closing and the North Mississippi Medical Center laying off employees. Tate Reeves has taken nearly $500,000 from big drug companies and health insurance companies, but has remained silent as hospitals shut down, lay off employees, and end critical services across the state.
Read more below:
July 13, 2023
Hours after yet another Mississippi hospital announced it was laying off workers this year, the leader of a hospital in the Mississippi Delta criticized Republican Gov. Tate Reeves for refusing to expand Medicaid access to the working poor.
Iris Stacker, the CEO of Delta Health Systems in Greenville, spoke at a Tuesday campaign event for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley and said if the federal program covered more people, then the local economy would be more robust.
“We don’t understand why Tate Reeves doesn’t understand why he needs a healthy workforce,” Stacker said.
Hospitals across the state have recently slashed their staff, discontinued medical services or closed their doors permanently because of financial pressures within their organizations.
North Mississippi Health Services in Tupelo announced Tuesday it was laying off employees, cutting their hours and reassigning them to different jobs.
Ochsner Health, which operates several facilities in Mississippi, announced in May it was cutting hundreds of jobs.
Memorial Hospital in Gulfport announced layoffs just days before the Oschner announcement.
In June, St. Dominic Hospital in Jackson announced it was cutting 5.5% of its workforce and ending its behavioral health program.
KPC Promise, a hospital in Vicksburg, closed last month.
And Delta Health, led by Stacker, last year closed its NICU unit, leaving the Delta region, one of the most impoverished areas in the nation, without a neonatal center.
One of the primary reasons Stacker and other hospital leaders support Medicaid expansion is their belief that it would reduce the amount of uncompensated care that medical workers provide to patients without health insurance.
The 40 other U.S. states that have expanded Medicaid have seen a significant drop in uncompensated care costs post-expansion. Louisiana, which expanded Medicaid in 2016, saw a 55% decrease in uncompensated care costs for rural hospitals.
Last year, Delta Health spent about $26 million on uncompensated care, Stacker previously said. That amounts to about 15% of its total operating expenses.
“We still continue to have uncompensated care every day,” Stacker told Mississippi Today on Tuesday.
The governor’s office and his campaign did not respond to a request for comment, but he has repeatedly objected to the program’s expansion, derisively calling it “welfare” or labeling it “Obamacare.” Instead, Reeves believes a law requiring medical facilities to seek approval from a state agency before they create a new health care center should be eliminated.
Meanwhile, Presley is strongly advocating for Medicaid expansion in his bid to unseat Reeves in November. More than a dozen health care professionals endorsed the Democratic candidate on Tuesday.
Mississippi is one of 10 states that has not passed any form of Medicaid expansion. Economic experts say the remaining states, many in the Deep South, would experience an economic boon if officials expanded the program. Studies show that Mississippi is leaving more than $1 billion in new health care related revenue on the table every year it does not expand.
Medical leaders have pleaded for state leaders to expand the program under the federal Affordable Care Act to draw down on additional funds. If the program were expanded, the federal government would likely cover 90% of the costs while the state contributed a 10% matching rate.
Much like in 2019, Medicaid coverage and access to health care are some of the primary issues between the two leading candidates in this year’s governor’s race.
Attorney General Jim Hood embraced Medicaid expansion throughout the last statewide campaign cycle, but Reeves still captured nearly 52% of the general election vote.
Presley, the current utility regulator from north Mississippi, is hoping the continuing spate of hospital closures will encourage more voters to be receptive to his pro-expansion message during the current election cycle.
Dr. Brett Zepponi, a Delta Health physician, told Mississippi Today that he considers himself a fiscal conservative, but he’s currently planning to vote for Presley because he doesn’t think the Greenville hospital can last much longer without expanding Medicaid coverage.
“For me, it doesn’t come down to a political thing,” Zepponi said. “But it’s more of a people thing. I think Republicans and Democrats both want their family to be taken care of and want their neighbors taken care of.”
July 10, 2023
In his latest pitch to voters on expanding Medicaid coverage to the working poor, Brandon Presley said he would consider a model similar to Arkansas or Indiana’s version, a plan some Republican lawmakers have already endorsed.
Presley, the Democratic candidate for governor, said if elected, he will not operate in a “Disney World” type of naive governance on Medicaid. Rather, he would work with legislative leadership to compromise on a deal that expands the program to working people.
“There’s going to be legislative influences, and there are going to be legislative changes, and there ought to be,” Presley said. “I’m not against that. There are ways to look at the Arkansas model or the Indiana model or models in other states in which we get something done on it.”
What’s notable about Presley’s latest announcement is some conservative legislators at the state Capitol have already gotten behind an Arkansas model, though they might not describe it as a type of expansion.
Arkansas, in 2014, first utilized a private insurance route. Instead of expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance to primarily the working poor – up to $18,500 per year for an individual – with the federal government paying 90% of the costs, Arkansas draws down those funds to help people purchase private health insurance policies.
Senate Medicaid Chairman Kevin Blackwell, a Republican from Southaven, told Mississippi Today in December that he opposes traditional Medicaid expansion, but he would support a program that uses federal dollars to connect the working poor to private insurance.
Rep. Jason White, the presumptive incoming speaker of the House, also told the Daily Journal in March that he wants to consider examining the state’s Medicaid policies, though he did not mention a specific type of expansion policy.
“… My Republican colleagues are not going to come for a straight-up Medicaid expansion package,” White said. “But they would consider something if the private businesses would get involved in that conversation, whatever it is.”
Other conservative states, such as Indiana when current presidential candidate Mike Pence was governor, have used alternative strategies to expand Medicaid access to more people. Eligibility for Indiana’s Medicaid program is more strict than federal limits and requires beneficiaries to create health savings accounts.
Mississippi’s burgeoning hospital crisis has emerged as one of the major issues of the statewide election cycle as more medical centers in the state continue to slash patient services to remain in business.
Since Presley and Republican Gov. Tate Reeves have started campaigning for office, the crisis has worsened. St. Dominic Memorial Hospital in Jackson laid off over 5% of its workforce and eliminated its mental health services, and Memorial Hospital in Gulfport cut 2% of its employees.
A third of Mississippi’s rural hospitals are also at risk of closure within the near future, according to a recent report from the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform.
“Tate Reeves is fiddling while the health care system in Mississippi burns to the ground,” Presley said on Monday.
Reeves’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment, but the incumbent governor running for a second term has consistently rejected Medicaid expansion as a solution to the burgeoning health care crisis.
Instead, Reeves believes in abolishing the state’s certificate of need laws, or CON laws, because he thinks it will cause more innovative medical services to emerge in the Magnolia State.
CON laws require medical facilities to seek approval from the state Health Department before they create a new health care center or expand an existing facility’s services in a specific area.
Mississippi is one of the 10 states in the country that has not passed any form of Medicaid expansion. Economic experts say the remaining states, many in the Deep South, would experience an economic boon if officials expanded the program.
Neighboring Louisiana under Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration passed Medicaid expansion. Bel Edwards cannot run again because of term limits, and none of the candidates trying to succeed him are looking to undo his expansion policies.
July 10, 2023
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley unveiled his healthcare plan in Meridian on Monday, July 10. He said he wants to make healthcare more transparent and affordable for Mississippi families.
Presley said his mother put off getting the treatment she needed because she couldn’t afford it. He said this is also the reality for many Mississippians.
“My mama put off seeing a doctor because she feared she couldn’t afford it. That’s why my plan will provide for more affordable healthcare, keep our rural hospitals open, and make prescription drug and health insurance costs more transparent so Mississippi families can get the healthcare they need,” said Presley, who is the state’s Northern District Public Service commissioner. “Tate Reeves has taken over $480,000 from health insurance and big drug companies, and he’s done their bidding by keeping healthcare costs high while Mississippians struggle to get the care they need to stay healthy. As governor, I’ll end Tate Reeves’ healthcare crisis and put Mississippi families’ health first – not the health insurance companies who bankroll Tate Reeves’ campaign.”
Presley said his plan includes expanding Medicaid to provide affordable healthcare to 220,000 Mississippians and keep hospital opens.
He also plans to create a website where Mississippians can compare health insurance and prescription drug costs.
Presley is unopposed for the Democratic nomination for governor. He could face incumbent Governor Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) in the November election. Reeves faces two underfunded opponents in the August 8 primary.
July 13, 2023
North Mississippi Health Services is laying off staff members as it implements what leaders are calling a "redesign" plan in which remaining staff may face reduced hours and reassignments, according to an internal email sent to staff Wednesday by Shane Spees, president and CEO of North Mississippi Health Services.
An NMHS representative contacted by the Daily Journal would not confirm how many staff members are being cut.
Spees, in his email to the nonprofit health system's employees, blamed rising costs for the layoffs.
"Across the country, hospitals and health systems have suffered financial losses due to rapidly increasing costs in labor, supplies and drugs," Spees wrote to staff. "At the same time, what health care systems are paid to care for patients is not increasing as quickly as more and more patient care is being provided in the outpatient setting rather than within a hospital.
"North Mississippi Health Services is experiencing the same dramatic shift," he added.
Compared to pre-pandemic data, payment per patient is up 12.31% from three years ago while cost per patient is up 21.26%, according to NMHS. That has resulted in $17.6 million in financial losses so far this year.
As a result, Spees wrote, "difficult decisions and changes throughout the system," will be implemented. According to the email, some team members will be asked to consider reassignment to different jobs, some jobs will be eliminated altogether, hours will be reduced in some positions and NMHS will "work to redesign 'how' to accomplish 'the work' of health care to be cost-effective while supporting growth in key services."
Spees told staff that leadership, in coordination with human resources, would begin to implement the changes starting Wednesday, July 12. The process will be completed over the span of two weeks.
He said NMHS is also committed to creating "new business partnerships" and a "focus on outpatient growth in new markets" to provide revenue sources for the company.
"Just as we did throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we will remain patient and family centered throughout these financial challenges and the shifting model within our industry," Spees wrote.
In 2013, NMHS laid off 109 employees which was 1.7% of its workforce at the time.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brandon Presley, a Nettleton native, released a statement Thursday regarding the NMHS layoffs.
“My heart goes out to the employees who’ve lost their jobs amid awful economic times,” Presley said. “Many are my neighbors and friends in northeast Mississippi.”
He has vowed to expand Medicaid in Mississippi if elected though it's unclear whether doing so would have prevented the recent layoffs and hospital closures across the state.
WXVT: Presley Talks Healthcare
July 13, 2023
[TRANSCRIPT] Public Service Commissioner and candidate for governor, Brandon Presley, was in the Delta today to talk about the future of healthcare in the area.
He met with local, city, and county leaders along with healthcare professionals at the Buster Brown Community Center in Greenville. They talked about solutions to the healthcare problem.
It comes as hospitals around the state and here in the Delta have either closed or cut services to stay open.
Presley says that he favors some kind of Medicaid expansion, extending public subsidized healthcare to blue collar workers, and putting more money into mental health.
[PRESLEY] "Beds in jails should be reserved for criminals, not folks who are suffering from mental health issues. I hear this from sheriffs and law enforcement all across the state - that this is a system that's got to be reformed and I'm committed to doing that."
Governor Tate Reeves has said he prefers letting the marketplace and innovation guide the healthcare system in the state.
July 10, 2023
[TRANSCRIPT] Elections are getting closer and closer here in Mississippi. The Democratic candidate for governor made a stop here in the Queen City earlier today.
Brandon Presley presented a speech at the Lauderdale County Courthouse discussing healthcare policy plans that he says would help working class Mississippians.
Presley says he's focusing on improving maternity mortality rates, lowering medication costs, appointing medical professionals to leadership positions relating to the healthcare system, and also expanding Medicaid as he pushes for his healthcare policy plans for the race for governor.
[PRESLEY] "I would work with senators who are attuned to trying to find solutions. I would want that information that is in Senator Hill's bill to be available to the public and not just to the Commissioner of Insurance, but there's already efforts afoot to try to bring some transparency to this process, but it involves transparency, it involves reform, it involves Medicaid expansion, and it involves getting somebody at the Division of Medicaid that understand the healthcare system and just doesn't understand politics."
Presley currently serves as a member of the Mississippi Public Service Commission. He has also served as the Mayor of Nettleton from 2001- 2007.
Brandon Presley is a fighter who keeps his promises, stands up for the little guy, and isn't afraid to ruffle more than a few feathers to deliver results for hardworking Mississippi families. Brandon served as Mayor of Nettleton from 2001 to 2007, where he got the town moving again, then balanced the budget every year and cut taxes twice. As Public Service Commissioner, Brandon opened up meetings that had been closed to the public for decades, brought high-speed internet to some of the most remote and forgotten parts of Mississippi, put people back to work with the Hire Mississippi program, and saved taxpayers over 6 billion dollars.