JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – On Thursday, Governor Tate Reeves (R-Miss.) announced a series of Medicaid reimbursement reforms in Mississippi. According to the governor, the reforms are estimated to generate approximately $700 million for hospitals across the state.

“Over the course of my tenure, we have constantly looked for solutions to Mississippi’s pressing health concerns. We’ve met with hospitals and doctors, insurance experts and community leaders,” said Governor Tate Reeves. “Today’s action will have a major impact, but this is still just the beginning. Our eyes are set on the future, and we aim to continue ushering in reforms that strengthen Mississippi’s healthcare system no matter where you live in the state.”

Reeves said the first initiative, known as the Mississippi Hospital Access Program (MHAP), will provide direct payments to hospitals serving patients in the Mississippi Medicaid managed care delivery system.

The governor said the second initiative will supplement Medicaid base payment rates for hospitals by reimbursing inpatient and outpatient hospital services in the fee-for-service system up to the Medicare upper payment limit.

To minimize the recurring impact of state general fund expenditures, Reeves said the non-federal share of the directed and supplemental payments will be financed through assessments hospitals pay annually to the Medicaid program through a formula set out in state law.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) must approve both proposals, which are being submitted. If approved, both would be effective as of July 1, 2023.

Reeves also called for prior authorization reform and announced that a working group on health issues would continue to meet to discuss further reforms in the state moving forward.

On Thursday, Reeves highlighted the impact on several hospitals around the state including:

  • An over $66 million or 50% increase for The University of Mississippi Medical Center.
  • An over $53 million or 337% increase for Forrest General Hospital.
  • An almost $34 million or 233% increase for Singing River Hospital.
  • An over $15 million or 259% increase for Delta Regional Medical Center.
  • An over $10 million or 138% increase for Greenwood Leflore Hospital.
  • An almost $17 million or 213% increase for Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center.
  • An over $9 million or 208% increase for Bolivar Medical Center.
  • An over $21 million or 262% increase for South Central Regional Medical Center.
  • An over $33 million or 115% increase for North Mississippi Medical Center.
  • An almost $17 million or 213% increase for Southwest Mississippi Regional Medical Center.

The governor’s announcement comes as the state is facing a healthcare crisis. Recent reports showed that Mississippi is experiencing a shortage of OB-GYNs, as well as a high infant mortality rate.

Mississippi has 74 rural hospitals, and some of those hospitals face the risk of closure. Five have closed since 2005, and 24 are at immediate risk of closing because of severe financial problems, according to a national policy group, Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform. Only Texas and Kansas have more hospitals in that risk category.

Mississippi is one of 10 states that have not expanded Medicaid to low-wage workers whose jobs don’t provide private health insurance. Expansion is an option under the health care overhaul signed into law in 2010 by then-President Barack Obama.

Reeves has said for years that he opposes Medicaid expansion because he does not want to add more people to a government program that he derides as “welfare.”

Health officials have said Mississippi could receive about $1 billion a year from the federal government for Medicaid expansion. The federal government would pay 90% of the cost for people added to the program, and the state government would pay 10%.

After Reeves announcement, Brandon Presley, the Democratic nominee for governor, said, “If Tate Reeves really cared about ending the hospital closure crisis he created, he would call a special session and expand Medicaid so working families can get the healthcare they need. Tate Reeves has had 12 long years to do something about Mississippi’s hospital crisis and 47 days before an election is too little, too late for the hospitals that have cut essential services, lost jobs, or are on the brink of closing altogether.”

In April, Reeves signed a bill to create a Mississippi Hospital Sustainability Grant Program to alleviate some financial problems created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitals are eligible for $250,000 to $1 million, depending on the size of the facility and whether it offers emergency services. The bill passed 52-0 in the Senate and 111-2 in the House.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.