January 1, 2019, WJTV, Ashli Coggins- The new year is bringing about changes to access for Mississippians on Medicaid. The state’s Medicaid division started the ‘EASE’ initiative, Enhancing Access to Services and Engagement, and some officials are hoping this step will improve the health of Mississippians.“The way that this is significant is that any additional visits to a beneficiary primary care physician is one visit that makes it less likely that that beneficiary will have to go to the emergency room,” Matt Westerfield the communication officer for M-DOM said. Starting this year those 22 and older on Medicaid will see an increase in the number of times they are able to visit a healthcare provider, from 12 to 16 visits per year. “We want to do anything we can to make our, I suppose reduce any administrative burden on our providers as well,” Westerfield said. State officials maintains this new move is a way towards preventative healthcare.
December 30, 2018, Politico, Rachana Pradhan- Arkansas is throwing thousands of people off its Medicaid rolls each month for not complying with work requirements, blindsiding vulnerable residents panicked about losing their health coverage. Views differ on the fairness of the unprecedented social experiment, but there’s unanimity here that it’s causing confusion. And that’s feeding a philosophical debate about whether low-income adults are ducking the work rules or just can’t navigate the tech-heavy reporting system that goes offline every night at 9 p.m. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson defended the program, saying it provides the help residents need to become independent. “These are not people that didn’t want to work,” he said in an interview. “It’s just they might not have had the training they needed, or they didn’t have a job opportunity and they needed additional assistance. And that’s what the objective is of the program.”
December 28, 2018, The Clarion Ledger, Luke Ramseth- A physicians group is raising concerns about a planned Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi policy change it says could lead to less care being covered when a patient comes into the emergency room. The Mississippi chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians said it’s worried about a change where the insurer will review ER bills so “level of care” charges more closely align with the patient’s diagnosis and not their symptoms. The group is concerned the policy - set to take effect next year - means tests and treatments related to the “ruling out” process would no longer be covered. But Mississippi’s insurance commissioner said the move is meant only to stop hospitals from over-billing related to the severity and complexity of an ER visit.
December 28, 2018, Mississippi Today, Erica Hensley- More Mississippians signed up for health insurance this year through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace than last year. Nationally, sign-ups were down by 5 percent at the close of the six-month open enrollment period; however, Mississippi is one of just five states that increased total marketplace that increased total marketplace enrollment over last year. Uncertainty surrounded the ACA as federal dollars aimed at aiding enrollment - advertising budget, navigator funds - were hit with deep cuts. Meanwhile, the nixed mandate penalty worried insurers -Ambetter was the only marketplace provider in Mississippi this year - and potential consumers.
December 21, 2018, Politico Pro, Paul Demko - Mississippi’s Republican governor is considering Medicaid expansion, the first sign that long-held GOP opposition could be wilting in the Deep South after an election that was a big winner for the Obamacare program. Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, entering his final year in office, has been engaged in quiet talks about adopting expansion after resisting for years, according to two sources familiar with the discussions.The behind-the-scenes move comes as a surprisingly viable Democratic gubernatorial candidate is planning to make Medicaid expansion a central issue in the 2019 election. But in an even more unlikely scenario, Republicans could beat him to it and undercut a key Democratic message.
December 21, 2018, The Clarion-Ledger, Luke Ramseth - Mississippi moved up one spot from last place - surpassing Louisiana - in the latest annual health rankings compiled by the United Health Foundation. But the state continues to grapple with last or near-last rankings across a host of health metrics, such as cancer and cardiovascular deaths, diabetes rates and infant mortality. Mississippi also failed to show any improvement in obesity and physical inactivity, the 2018 America’s Health Rankings report revealed. If the state hopes to significantly improve health outcomes and move up in the rankings, it needs to focus on decreasing its uninsured rate by expanding Medicaid coverage, said Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program. The Affordable Care Act gave states the ability, using mostly federal funds, to cover a large segment of their poor adult populations with Medicaid. But Mississippi is one of 14 Republican-controlled states that has not approved the coverage expansion. Nearly 12 percent of Mississippians are without insurance, the report said, among the highest percentages in the nation, and well above the national average of about 9 percent. “I don’t understand why we haven’t expanded Medicaid,” Mitchell said. “We’ve foregone a huge opportunity to get preventive care to a lot of working Mississippians.”