Mississippi health care providers breaking the law with large medical bills that patients don’t have

March 11, 2019, Mississippi Today, Anna Wolfe - Health care providers in Mississippi continue to break the law by sending patients large, out-of-pocket medical bills that they don’t have to pay, concludes a Harvard Law School report released Monday. The Legislature passed a law in 2013 to prohibit what is known as “balance billing” - when a provider bills a patient for the difference between the initial charges and the amount paid after insurance benefits are assigned. But the law contains few enforcement measures, so patients must know about the law and challenge balance bills in order to benefit from the legislation, which was enacted under the radar of many officials and health care providers. Feeble efforts to strengthen protections in the law during the 2019 legislative session were unsuccessful. “Unfortunately, our collective trust of the provider community is being abused to the detriment of our bank accounts,” Roy Mitchell, director of Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, said in a release announcing the Harvard report. “It is time our policymakers even the playing field for Mississippi’s health consumers.”

Is your hospital on this list? 31 Mississippi hospitals at risk of closing, report says

March 12, 2019, The Clarion Ledger, Giacomo Bologna - A study released in February focusing on America’s “rural hospital crisis” had Mississippi at the top of a worrying list. The Magnolia State has more rural hospitals at “high financial risk” - 31 - than any other state in the country, according to the analysis by Navigant, a management consulting firm. Navigant’s list of Mississippi rural hospitals at high financial risk, broken down by how critical Navigant deems the hospital to the community

Did a failure of health care policy kill a Mississippi mother? And could it kill you?c

March 12, 2019, The Clarion Ledger, Giacomo Bologna - Arguments over health care policy are no longer abstract in Chickasaw County. Family members called 911 after a 23-year-old woman appeared to suffer an asthma attack at her Houston home in January. Shyteria Shardae “Shy” Shoemaker was only an 8-minute drive from Trace Regional Hospital, but the hospital closed its emergency room in 2014. It took 24 minutes for the only ambulance on duty in the county that night to reach her, and then she was transported 20 miles away to a hospital in a different county. Shoemaker died that night. “Someone dying from an asthma attack should never happen,” said Ryan Kelly, executive director of the Mississippi Rural Health Association. Five rural hospitals in Mississippi have closed since 2013. Four are currently grappling with bankruptcy. Nearly half are at “high financial risk” - including Trace Regional Hospital in Chickasaw County - according to a report released in February.

BILL CRAWFORD: Hospitals closing and healthcare for working poor becoming campaign issues

March 10, 2019, Mississippi Business Journal, Bill Crawford - “Half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals at risk of closing, report says,” read the startling headline in Mississippi Today. “Thirty-one of Mississippi’s 64 rural hospitals, or 48 percent, are at ‘high financial risk,’ according to a national report of rural hospitals from independent consulting firm Navigant,” read the article. Perhaps even more startling was this from an article in News Mississippi: “Four hospitals have closed in the past five years and five more are threatening closure. Expanding Medicaid would ensure that Mississippians continue to have access to local trauma centers and proper healthcare, however, (Senate Medicaid Committee Chairman Senator Brice) Wiggins said the hospitals need to work it out on their own.” “Work it out on their own.” Hmmm. Public and private hospitals in Mississippi, excluding state and federally owned hospitals, employee over 50,000 people with average salaries of $46,700. Apparently, sustaining these high paying jobs in rural communities is not a state priority.

As Hospitals Post Price Lists, Consumers Are Asked To Check Up On Them

March 8, 2019, KHN,  Steven Findlay - With much fanfare, federal officials required hospitals nationwide this year to post their “list” prices online. But it’s not yet clear how many are doing it, even as the government has taken the rare step of asking consumers to monitor hospital compliance. Most hospitals appear to be complying with the rule, according to hospital officials and a small sampling of websites. However, the feds acknowledge they are not yet enforcing the rule, industry groups are not monitoring compliance, many hospitals are burying the information on their websites, and debate continues about whether the price lists are creating more confusion than clarity among consumers.

Baptist-Union County gets national kudos

March 8, 2019, Daily Journal, Michaela Gibson Morris - Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County has earned a spot among the best in the nation. The New Albany hospital has received top honors among rural hospitals from Chartis Center for Rural Health and among all hospitals from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s Hospital Compare. In both cases, Baptist-Union County was the only Mississippi hospital recognized. Baptist-Union County chief executive officer Walter Grace credits staff, physicians and department leadership.