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Medicaid Expansion Won’t Save Mississippi’s Rural Hospitals: Brooklyn Roberts in Magnolia Tribune

Medicaid expansion has proven to be more of a billion-dollar boondoggle than a long-term solution.

Brooklyn Roberts, senior director of the Health and Human Services Task Force authored an op-ed in The Magnolia Tribune explaining why Medicaid expansion won’t help rural hospitals in Mississippi and would become more of a problem than a solution.

America’s rural hospitals are struggling. Patient volumes have dropped, the number of uninsured patients has risen, and the ability to recruit and retain talented healthcare providers is proving even more difficult than before. Some are turning to Medicaid expansion as the magic bullet to solve their funding problems. But after digging through the numbers, expansion has proven to be more of a billion-dollar boondoggle than a long-term solution.

States expanding their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act find one in four of their hospitals at risk of closing. In total, almost 50 rural hospitals in those same states have closed since expansion was embraced. Additionally, a 2020 Guidehouse study found that three out of the five states with the highest percentage of community-essential hospitals are Medicaid-expanding states. They also found that 76% of rural area patients reached well outside of their usual coverage area when looking for quality care.

When examining the numbers, rural hospitals in Medicaid-expanding states may actually be in worse shape, as adults with private insurance (usually worse coverage) are trading that coverage for the Medicaid option. As Medicaid’s reimbursement rates are roughly 40% lower than private insurers, that translates into even higher losses for rural hospitals. This further exacerbates the woes of rural hospitals rather than solving them. Upon further examination, hospitals in expansion states are facing significant Medicaid shortfalls and financial losses, indicating that Medicaid expansion has not been the panacea supporters claimed it to be.

Read the full op-ed.