Agency rejecting 98.5% of welfare applicants to take over Medicaid – Jackson Clarion Ledger

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Crystal Springs resident Shan Copeland suffers from pseudotumor cerebri, a condition in which pressure inside the skull increases for no obvious reason. Copeland credits Medicaid with saving her life
Wochit

It appears the Mississippi Department of Human Services is poised to gain power over determining who’s eligible for Medicaid. 

This is the agency that approved 1.5 percent of new applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits last year.

In a state with the lowest median income and highest rate of poverty in the nation, Mississippi also had the highest rate of rejecting folks applying for these benefits.

In addition to the shift of power, a letter Gov. Phil Bryant sent the Division of Medicaid and Human Services Oct. 12 suggests the possibility of a work requirement finding its way into the upcoming Medicaid debate.

Leighton Ku, professor and director of the Center for Health Policy Research at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, calculated the impact of a work requirement for Medicaid in April. He found that if implemented nationwide, 11 million people, or 15 percent of Medicaid recipients, could risk losing their health insurance.

More: Gov. Bryant wants Medicaid eligibility under Human Services, alludes to work requirement

BRYANT ASKED OFFICIALS TO PROVIDE HIM WITH PLANS to shift all Medicaid eligibility responsibilities to Human Services and draft legislation that would codify the change.

Supporters say the consolidation will help streamline the eligibility process, giving low-income Mississippians one less hoop to jump through in obtaining the benefits for which they’re qualified. 

Skeptics argue Human Services’ track record doesn’t invoke confidence.

In 2016, 6,132 families received basic assistance under TANF, just 2 percent of the number of families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, in Mississippi.

Human Services spent just over $10 million of the state’s roughly $90 million in TANF funds, most of which comes to Mississippi through a federal block grant, in cash payments to needy families. The state also used TANF funds to pay for child care subsidies and work development programs.

The agency has not responded to a Oct. 3 public records request from The Clarion-Ledger for audits regarding how Mississippi spent TANF funds in 2016.

MS Pulse: Financial health is physical health; one Mississippi group is especially sick

Other health news

MISSISSIPPI’S ACHIEVEMENTS IN TELEHEALTH present a paradox, because while the University of Mississippi Medical Center leads the country in improving access to health care through telecommunications, Mississippi has fewer people connected to the internet than any other state.

As telehealth becomes mainstream, a huge segment of the population is at risk of being left behind, according to experts.

INEQUITY IS AS CLEAR AS BLACK AND WHITE, according to the latest KIDS COUNT study, “Race for Results,” which examines the intersection of youth, race and opportunity. 

In Mississippi, improvements can be made through better early childhood screening, which UMMC has already begun, and economic supports like the State Earned Income Tax Credit, financial literacy programs, workforce development training and college preparation in high schools. For a full list of solutions, visit The Clarion-Ledger’s story here.

WHITE AND BLACK AMERICANS lose years off their lives for very different reasons, according to a study published in the Public Library of Science’s PLOS ONE Oct. 10. 

The leading cause of potential years of life lost for black Americans is homicide, while for white Americans, it’s heart disease. Homicide is the 12th greatest contributor of lost years of life for white Americans.

“The goal of public health is to protect and promote the health of all people. The existence of persistent racial health disparities between black and white Americans is at stark odds with this goal,” wrote the authors of the study.

More: MS Pulse: Looking at gun violence as a public health issue

THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION DECLARED A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY on Thursday over the nation’s opioid epidemic, which is killing 91 Americans each day. 

A RURAL MISSISSIPPI HOSPITAL THRIVES after bouncing back from the brink of closure in the early 2000′s. CNN explains what happened to North Sunflower Medical Center in Ruleville over the last decade that has allowed it to stay open and serve more patients than ever.

TEAL PUMPKINS ON DOORSTEPS could keep kids safe this Halloween by signifying homes giving out non-food trick-or-treat items — children with food allergies in mind. The Teal Pumpkin Project is a nationwide effort to encourage families to offer up non-food treats on Oct. 31.

To participate, place a teal-colored pumpkin (paint a real gourd or buy a plastic one) outside your front door so parents know you have non-food treats like glow sticks, spider rings and Halloween stickers.

MS Pulse is a weekly column by health reporter Anna Wolfe. Contact her at 601-961-7326 or awolfe@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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