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KDMC, Lawrence hospital join Medicaid cut challenge

Two area hospitals have joined with more than 150 otherhospitals and nursing homes across Mississippi in an effort to stopGov. Haley Barbour from enacting a series of cuts to the state’sMedicaid program, which are scheduled for next week.

King’s Daughters Medical Center and Lawrence County Hospitalwere part of lawsuit filed Friday afternoon in Hinds County aimedat delaying the governor’s promise to cut approximately $375million from Medicaid on Wednesday, Aug. 6, until an in-depth studyof the cuts’ impact on statewide health care and medical-basedeconomies can be analyzed.

Officials from the two facilities said the cuts, which thegovernor has promised as a means to close a $90 million funding gapin Medicaid’s budget, have the potential to cripple theirworkforces and health care services. In the joint program thatserves approximately a quarter of the state’s population, statedollars are matched on a 3-1 basis by the federal government.

“Nobody wants to take a beating,” said LCH Administrator SemmesRoss. “If the Legislature is not gonna do anything until January,we need to protect ourselves some way between now and then.”

Ross said the proposed Medicaid cuts could cost LCH as much as$450,000 per year in lost reimbursements, possibly forcing him tomake layoffs at the facility. He said that even if the cuts weremade and the money reinstated next year, the damage would alreadybe done.

“You don’t go back and hire those people you had to get rid of -they’re gone,” Ross said. “You don’t reinstate those servicesbecause patients don’t want to come there anymore. You’ll nevermake up that money that (Barbour) cuts.”

Ross said LCH would still support Senate Bill 2013 – thelegislation containing the $167 per day bed assessment formula thatwould see the state’s hospitals cover the Medicaid funding gapthemselves – that he and other administrators have called for. Henoted, however, the bill’s passage seems highly unlikely at thispoint.

“The Legislature can’t work that out because they want to fightover tobacco and everything else,” he said. “If the governor bringsthem back and don’t allow them to discuss a cigarette tax, theHouse is just gonna walk in and walk back out.”

KDMC Chief Executive Officer Alvin Hoover said his hospitalwould still support SB 2013, though the legislation “is not [his]favorite.” He said a hybrid bill containing a mixture of hospitalassessment and cigarette tax is a feasible solution, as long as aplan is enacted to shore up Medicaid and stop the cuts.

“Those cuts would have a devastating impact on our hospital andaccess to health care in Lincoln County and the surrounding areas,”Hoover said. “That would be a hard hurdle for us to overcome.”

Hoover said the proposed cuts could cost KDMC as much as$250,000 per month in lost Medicaid reimbursements and force thehospital to evaluate its staff and services.

Even with a $90 million funding deficit in the Division ofMedicaid, the proposed cuts are too extreme for what the situationdemands, Hoover said.

“What [Barbour] has proposed is unprecedented,” he said.”There’s never been any kind of effort in any state to cut a thirdof their Medicaid program. It’s not a sound health care proposal.There’s no reason he has to make these kinds of cuts, in myopinion, other than he can’t reach an agreement with the House andSenate.”

Hinds County Chancery Judge Patricia Wise is expected to addressthe proposed Medicaid cuts later this week, and her decision couldhave a heavy impact on the Legislature’s actions when it reconvenesin special session Monday.

“Until that’s resolved, we don’t know what the Legislature cando to address [Medicaid],” said Mississippi Hospital AssociationPresident and CEO Sam Cameron. “The courts will be making adecision, and the Legislature will act based on that.”

Cameron said the association, which is not involved in thelawsuit being handled by Jackson-based law firm Wise Carter Childand Caraway, P.A., supports the hospitals in their quest to blockthe cuts and has taken on a supporting role.

“The contention is that the state does not have to make thecuts,” he said. “There’s adequate time and funding to fund Medicaiduntil the Legislature comes back in January. That’s the goal.”

Cameron speculated that the lawsuit might result in thecancellation of the remainder of the special session.

District 53 Rep. Bobby Moak, D-Bogue Chitto, said such rumorsare circulating among legislators. One factor that is not a rumorbut simply an unknown, he said, is how the federal Centers forMedicare and Medicaid Services would react to the proposedcuts.

“So far, CMS has not agreed with the cuts the governor is goingto make,” Moak said. “They have to sign off on them.”

District 91 Rep. Bob Evans, D-Monticello, said he would not besurprised if Monday’s reconvene date for the Legislature is moved.He believes the hospitals’ lawsuit will be successful, basicallyending the need for the special session.

“That will leave but one thing to do – come up with a solutionbetween now and March, and that’s plenty of time to do it,” hesaid. “I sort of believe the special session will just go away. Itwould certainly have been fruitless up to this point.”

District 92 Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, said the entiresituation could have been avoided by the passage of SB 2013.

“Everyone needs to remember that there would have never havebeen any cuts, jobs lost or reduction of services had the Housegone along with what the Senate and the governor wants to do,” shesaid. “We can go back in January in just a few months and fixwhatever we wanted to with the bill, and the hospitals would justhave to make one payment between now and then.”

Currie accused the Democratic House leadership for dragging theMedicaid issue to this point simply to gain political clout forNovember’s elections.

“The public needs to understand that this is just politics atits best,” she said. “If the House continues to want to playpolitics, anybody who has a reduction of hours or job loss needs tothank the House leadership.”