Healthy Kids, Healthy Codgers

The Capitol legislated a healthier lifestyle for public school students, creating SB 2369, which demands schools offer at least 150 minutes of physical education for students each week, along with 45 minutes of health education. The Senate bill is a partial replacement of a House bill that mandated similar exercise requirements, but which also ordered trans fats out of school lunchrooms. The Senate gave a pass to trans fats, which the National Institutes of Health has found increases the risk of heart disease.

Another health-geared bill coming out this year is HB 1465, a bill creating the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program. The program seeks to increase recruitment from the state's impoverished rural areas for the health field, but ultimately also seeks to increase the presence of young doctors into those same under-served areas.

Gov. Barbour and pro-"tort reform" forces argued in 2001 that high malpractice insurance premiums were driving doctors out of the Delta, but now that the state has adopted full-scale tort reform, attorney John Arthur Eaves said the state is learning that what kept doctors out of the Delta was more likely the Delta environment.

"I don't think it was ever so much about tort reform as it was the doctors' difficulty in adjusting to rural living," said Eaves, who is running for governor. "Malpractice insurance hasn't gotten any cheaper since tort reform. As far as I can tell, there was never a real connection between the two."

Another legislative success story, according to House Public Health Chairman Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, includes HB 528. That bill makes technical changes to the state's Medicaid program, but also augments a "money-follows-the-person" clause, allowing eligible Medicaid beneficiaries to apply their Medicaid pay to alternative health care. Holland said he expects the bill to have a resounding impact upon Alzheimer's victims and senior citizens, delaying institutional care in favor of less stressful home-care nursing.


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