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COVID, Mississippi, and the Medicaid expansion

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One reason the COVID situation in Mississippi is so dire (at least its governor is taking the problem seriously!) is that the state has the country’s worst healthcare system. And one reason the healthcare system is particularly bad is that the party of sociopaths that govern the state is turning down a major infusion of federal cash that would provide healthcare to the poor and strengthen the state’s medical system:

The current coronavirus spike has hit the South hard, but a combination of poverty and politics made Mississippi uniquely unprepared to handle what is now the worst coronavirus outbreak in the nation. The state has fewer active physicians per capita than any other. Five rural hospitals have closed in the past decade, and 35 more are at imminent risk of closing, according to an assessment from a nonprofit health care quality agency. There are 2,000 fewer nurses in Mississippi today than there were at the beginning of the year, according to the state hospital association.

“If you look around, the state’s hospitals were in bad shape before there was such a thing as Covid,” said Marty Wiseman, an emeritus political science professor at Mississippi State University. “It was not a good time to layer a pandemic on top of that.”

Mississippi has waged decades of political battles over health care policy that can run almost as hot as the fights over the symbols of the old Confederacy. Most crucially, the state rejected a proposal to expand Medicaid, the federally subsidized health insurance program for low-income residents, a decision that critics say has deprived Mississippi of a much-needed infusion of federal money that might have strengthened small hospitals on the brink of failure and allowed them to recruit and retain doctors and nurses. That debate is being revisited by advocates who hope the pandemic will force a new reckoning.

What Mississippi has been left with, after years of infighting, is a system believed to be the weakest in the nation.

One upshot of this is that among the people with blood on their hands here is John G. Roberts.

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