Medicaid special session keeps hospitals in limbo - WDAM - TV 7 - News, Weather and Sports

Medicaid special session keeps Forrest General Hospital in limbo

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HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) -

Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg is prepping to cut its budget by $25 million as Mississippi lawmakers debate whether or not to expand Medicaid in the state.

Officials with the hospital fear that Mississippi lawmakers will not vote to expand Medicaid to a larger number of residents, and with federal cuts to hospital reimbursements it would mean a drastic reduction in funding.

Currently, Mississippi's Medicaid coverage is capped to cover people making around $5,500 a year or less. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that each state could choose whether or not to expand Medicaid coverage to include residents making about $15,000 a year. Until that decision, the expansion was mandated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known informally as Obamacare.

The Act makes also makes large cuts to the payments the federal government makes to those hospitals that treat large numbers of uninsured patients, like Forrest General. The original thinking behind these cuts was that Medicaid expansion would cover the lost funding, but without the mandate it could be a problem because some states may not vote for expansion.

Forrest General Hospital CEO Evan Dillard said, "All of us in the industry were not supportive going into this for healthcare reform, but we have to live with it. It's the law of the land. Those who are saying it's not the law of the land are fooling themselves."

The Mississippi House failed to adopt a Medicaid budget on April 1, forcing the special session.

As hospitals wait on a Medicaid decision from the Mississippi legislature's special session, officials they say they must plan for the worst. If DSH payments go away on October 1 Forrest General Hospital will be chasing a $20 million hole, officials said.

In preparation, the hospital will submit a balanced budget calling for $25 million in cuts. Dillard said Forrest General will likely cut some services and may fire some employees.

Hospital administrators are actively meeting with legislators and the governor. As of yet, neither side has been able to agree on a solution. However, Dillard says a wait-and-see approach will be destructive.

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