JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Some Mississippi hospital administrators say they worry about bad financial consequences if the state doesn't expand Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul.
Specifically, they worry hospitals will have to continue providing care for uninsured people even if the federal government stops reimbursing part of the expense.
Officials say there's a lot of uncertainty about whether the reimbursement will continue in states that choose not to put more people on Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the needy.
Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said for months that Mississippi can't afford to put another 300,000 people on Medicaid, even with the federal government paying most of the tab from 2014 to 2017.
Chris Anderson, CEO of the Pascagoula-based Singing River Health System, said Wednesday that it makes financial sense to put thousands of currently uninsured people into the program.
"I absolutely think the state should proceed with expanding Medicaid," Anderson said in an interview after he spoke to a Senate Public Health subcommittee.
"I realize there are pros and cons and there is some cost. But if we do not expand, we are taking taxpayer dollars from the state of Mississippi and we're giving it to other states," Anderson said. "It is going to strengthen other health systems in other states at the expense of Mississippi, already the poorest state in the country."
He wasn't alone in that sentiment.
Gary Marchand, president and CEO of Gulfport-based Memorial Hospital, said that in 2009, about 10 percent of the hospital's patients were uninsured. By 2012, he said that had risen to "slightly north of 13 percent," which he attributed to a stagnant economy.