Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Republican leaders in Mississippi have made their dedication to reducing the size of state government and "running it like a business" abundantly clear in past years. This summer Mississippians heard a lot about "workforce development" and the thousands of jobs out there with no one ready to fill them. Their solution? Pushing workforce initiatives and job training programs.
Workforce development, continuing education and job training are all important but really quite futile without a long-term plan for the Mississippians to take those jobs. People must be healthy in order to go to school, find work and stay in jobs.
Most business models develop strategic plans projecting where the company wants to be in the future, and then plan accordingly. Mississippi lawmakers reject long-term planning when they do not fund health care. From the Department of Mental Health to the Division of Medicaid, state dollars can help keep Mississippians healthy and employed.
At Medicaid hearings last week, medical providers expressed frustration about how the system limits their success in helping Mississippians with chronic health conditions and those in poverty. The state is last place in health again, a new report shows, and has the highest pre-term birth rate in the U.S.
Preventive health care is the best health care—and cheaper. It's not a secret: Healthy people would not only stay in school, but be able to go to work and fill the state's numerous open jobs, but they could also save the state money in the long run.
The upfront costs of offering preventive and comprehensive care to Mississippians will pay off when the next generation is raised in a healthier, productive environment. Health is a part of everyday life—it cannot be separated from work, socioeconomics and housing. Unless lawmakers are willing to openly admit they want to let the most vulnerable people in our state fend for themselves, or even die, it is time to seriously discuss and fund health care. It is time to quit fussing about Medicaid because it's not a Republican favorite, and start talking about how to help Mississippians get healthier and eventually to prevent adverse health outcomes.
This will not be cheap or easy, especially if federal money that currently helps fund programs such as SNAP, TANF and Medicaid gets slashed. Medical providers and state agencies have ideas and solutions to help with the state's chronic health issues. The Department of Health has initiatives in place to educate and help pregnant women at risk for pre-term births. The University of Mississippi Medical Center continues to grow, providing specialized care as researchers study how to best care for the sick.
In the 2018 legislative session, we hope lawmakers will seriously consider funding health-care sectors in the state from rural hospitals to the state's Medicaid population. There are no easy answers, but starving agencies that serve the most sick and vulnerable in our state is sending a clear message to the next generation: You are not important to the business and future of Mississippi.