They want to keep government spending in check

Republican-run Southern states reject federal funding for hospitals. That’s nice for the non-rich people who live there.

Since its opening in a converted wood-frame mansion 117 years ago, Greenwood Leflore Hospital had become a medical hub for this part of Mississippi’s fertile but impoverished Delta, with 208 beds, an intensive-care unit, a string of walk-in clinics and a modern brick-and-glass building.

The Delta was where slavery was at its worst. It’s where Parchman is. It’s where Emmett Till was tortured to death. It’s where Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were murdered. Fertile for cotton but horrible for the people forced to work in the fields.

But on a recent weekday, it counted just 13 inpatients clustered in a single ward. The I.C.U. and maternity ward were closed for lack of staffing and the rest of the building was eerily silent, all signs of a hospital savaged by too many poor patients.

It’s nearly out of money; it’s going to close.

Rural hospitals are struggling all over the nation because of population declines, soaring labor costs and a long-term shift toward outpatient care. But those problems have been magnified by a political choice in Mississippi and nine other states, all with Republican-controlled legislatures.

They have spurned the federal government’s offer to shoulder almost all the cost of expanding Medicaid coverage for the poor. And that has heaped added costs on hospitals because they cannot legally turn away patients, insured or not.

Republican legislatures don’t want to let poor people have Medicaid. They want them to go without it.

Opponents of expansion, who have prevailed in Texas, Florida and much of the Southeast, typically say they want to keep government spending in check.

They want to let poor people die.

Who will mow their lawns and scrub their toilets then is a puzzle, but Republicans stand on principle, the principle of making sure people stay mired in poverty.

In Mississippi, one of the nation’s poorest states, the missing federal health care dollars have helped drive what is now a full-blown hospital crisis. Statewide, experts say that no more than a few of Mississippi’s 100-plus hospitals are operating at a profit. Free care is costing them about $600 million a year, the equivalent of 8 percent to 10 percent of their operating costs — a higher share than almost anywhere else in the nation, according to the state hospital association.

Expanding Medicaid would uncork a spigot of about $1.35 billion a year in federal funds to hospitals and health care providers, according to a 2021 report by the office of the state economist.

Yebbut they’d have to spend it on poor people.

And it would guarantee medical coverage to some 100,000 uninsured adults making less than $20,120 a year in a state whose death rates are at or near the nation’s highest for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease and pneumonia. Infant mortality is also sky-high, and the Delta has the nation’s highest rate of foot and leg amputations because of diabetes or hypertension.

Health officials blame those numbers in part on the high rate of uninsured residents who miss out on preventive care.

So it’s their own fault then.

Gov. Tate Reeves, a Republican, and key G.O.P. state lawmakers argue that a bigger Mississippi program is not in taxpayers’ best interest. The governor says the state’s $3.9 billion surplus would be best used to help eliminate Mississippi’s income tax.

“Don’t simply cave under the pressure of Democrats and their allies in the media who are pushing for the expansion of Obamacare, welfare and socialized medicine,” Mr. Reeves said in his annual State of the State address in January.

Ugh god, that’s enough. I’m so sick of this heartless crap.

9 Responses to “They want to keep government spending in check”