Medicaid in Mississippi: Part 2: Medicaid and Nursing HomesBy Jeffrey Hess | Published 17 Apr 2013 01:30pm |
Medicaid only provides health insurance to about 12% of Mississippians but its impact on the health care market place is much larger. Doctors, hospitals and nursing homes in particular say they would find it difficult, if not impossible to survive without it and its future is now in jeopardy.
Healthcare professionals like Tonya Gillespie are all too familiar with this struggle of maintaining care and services with the Medicaid program.
She is the administrator of Community Place, a nursing home in Jackson.
At her facility, 95% of the residents rely on Medicaid for the care they get in her center and she says many of her residents would have limited alternatives for care outside of the Medicaid program.
"Its middle income America. It is people that, they have worked all their life or that have worked up to the point a catastrophic event where they can't care for themselves anymore. And they don't have the money to take of themselves. That is what a lot of the Medicaid patients are coming from," Gillespie says.
Gillespie is the only non-profit nursing home in the city, and as a result, charges fairly low rates for a nursing home. She charges $185 a day whether the person is on Medicaid, private insurance or paying their own way.
Some nursing homes charge even more, upwards of $230 a day which translates into nearly $7,000 dollars a month.
But for that money, Gillesipie says her residents get round the clock skilled nursing care that families would be unable to provide at home and this is made possible through Medicaid funding.
"If we did not have the funding from Medicaid, we would not continue to exist, says Gillespie. “These people would have to find another place to live,"
Charlene Laughlin, 91, a resident at Community Place describes her situation as one with few other options for care outside of Community Place.
"I don't know because I don't have no where to go. Nowhere to go," says Laughlin.
Laughlin explains that she was married three times but has no children or close relatives that would be able to take care of her if the Medicaid funding that pays for her care is stopped.
"If I had somebody to take care of me I could get out of here. But I don't have no where to go," says Laughlin.
Laughlin's case is an extreme example of the Medicaid program.
Of the 700,000 Mississippians on Medicaid, only about 17,000 are in nursing homes.
But her case is one that both Democrats and Republicans point to when attempting to explain their position in the political battle over whether or not to re-new or expand the program. Lawmakers left Jackson without passing either the authorization or the money to keep the Medicaid program alive.
Republicans, like Gov. Phil Bryant have aggressively blamed the Democrats for threatening to throw people like Charlene out of her nursing home.
"I think between now and June, Democrats across this state, and every Democrat in the house voted to do away with Medicaid, and they are going to be asked when they return home why they did that,” said Bryant. “Someone is going to say 'why do you want to take my mother out of the nursing home to expand Obamacare?'. That is a simple question I hope all Mississippians ask them," continued Bryant.
It might sound like an odd switch from the politics of the past when Democrats in Mississippi often portrayed themselves as the primary defenders of Medicaid.
Democratic caucus leader Bobby Moak of Bouge Chitto is confident that Medicaid will not end, and for that reason, Democrats felt secure using it as leverage to try and force a vote on broadening access to the program.
"We all know, number one, that the Medicaid program is not going to be stopped in this state,” said Moak. “When you have got $800 million state tax dollars going to get your match? It’s not going to happen. This is a multi-billion dollar program with thousands of jobs,"
The impasse between Democrats and Republicans is why lawmakers left Jackson without re-approving Medicaid during their three month legislative session.
The Governor will likely have to call the legislature back into session to get a deal on Medicaid before the program expires and the funding runs out June 30.
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