- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

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May 6

The Greenwood Commonwealth says there is an impending clash between medical titans in the state:

Given the financial stresses rampaging through the medical industry, a prominent showdown between a large hospital system and a large insurance company was inevitable. Unless cooler heads prevail, it will occur this summer in Mississippi.



The University of Mississippi Medical Center, based in Jackson, said last week it will stop accepting insurance policies from Blue Cross Blue Shield after June 30. The medical center’s CEO said this means UMMC still will accept Blue Cross customers for treatment, and the insurer will reimburse UMMC for services under the existing contract between the two organizations for now.

After June 30, however, UMMC patients will have to file their own claims with Blue Cross, and if the medical center charges more money than the insurer is willing to pay, the patient will owe the difference.

You have to be a pretty big medical care provider to take on a large insurer such as Blue Cross. UMMC is the state’s largest hospital, and says it is no longer willing to work under a contract that allows Blue Cross to unilaterally change the terms of the agreement so that the hospital receives less money for providing care.

Although UMMC officials took the step of announcing the separation from Blue Cross, it is almost certain that its goal is to work out an agreement. If the two sides let June 30 arrive without a deal, there is bound to be a public-relations backlash against both.

As the state’s biggest hospital, UMMC gets plenty of patients from all around Mississippi for treatment by specialists. These patients may not think to ask whether their insurance will cover them, and those with Blue Cross will not be happy if they must pay more at UMMC.

Also, doctors referring Blue Cross-covered patients to specialists are likely to send them somewhere besides UMMC, depriving the medical center of the extra revenue it badly needs.

On the Blue Cross side, it is common for patients to be disappointed with insurance companies when the bill comes due. Even the best insurance policies require patients to pay part of the cost, but the billing statement has not yet been invented that can help the average person understand what got paid for, what did not and especially why the insurer made these decisions.

If a patient at UMMC has to file his own insurance claim and pay more because of the dispute, odds are that patient will fault Blue Cross instead of the facility that provided the care.

UMMC said Blue Cross patients account for 13 percent of the medical center’s revenue. That’s one dollar out of every eight it takes in, and UMMC’s decision could put some or all of that money at risk. After all, there are other medical centers in Mississippi. Patients have options.

Boiled down, this is a money problem that has been brewing for years. Hospitals have been hit hard by reduced reimbursements from the two government health insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid, and from private insurers. They rightly believe their survival is threatened by further revenue declines. Blue Cross, meanwhile, is trying to hold down its costs by controlling the payments it makes to hospitals.

Whether or not UMMC and Blue Cross arrive at a solution, this problem is not going away. Medical care keeps getting more expensive - but nobody wants to pay for it.

Online: http://www.gwcommonwealth.com/

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May 9

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal says an educational initiative offers promise for the northeast region of the state:

An educational partnership forming in the Mississippi Delta could be a beneficial one for Northeast Mississippi administrators to examine and possibly bring to our region to provide even more educational opportunities for students.

Officials with the Greenville Public School District are teaming up with Mississippi Valley State University to create an Early College Program. The program, as reported by the Delta Democrat-Times, would be the first opportunity in the state for a student to study at a four-year university while still in high school.

The program would initially involve nearly 40 ninth-grade students being bused to the Valley campus in Itta Bena where - for the first two years - they would take core high school classes and a few college classes. As juniors and seniors, the students would then take all college classes.

Greenville students will stay together during their days on campus, with Greenville teachers handling the high school instruction.

Officials say the program could be attractive to students who have already been held back in earlier grades, allowing them to catch up with students their own age. They estimate costs should remain the same as if students were on campus at Greenville High School.

While other Mississippi school districts have early college programs involving community colleges, this would be the first program to involve a four-year university.

That fact alone left us scratching our heads a bit.

School districts in Northeast Mississippi have an incredible opportunity with so many institutions of higher learning within such close proximity. For Tupelo and Lee County, the possibilities seem endless in terms of potential partnerships with our four-year universities and community colleges alike.

These outside of the box programs are exactly what more school districts need to be considering in order to reach as many students as possible and prepare them for life after high school even before they graduate.

In other early college programs across the state, students have the opportunity to graduate high school with enough college credits to be a sophomore or even in some cases have an associate’s degree in hand.

The days of providing a traditional one-track education plan for high school students is over. Districts need to be creative and make sure a number of options are being offered to meet the diverse needs of an ever-changing educational and workforce landscape.

We realize some school districts in Northeast Mississippi are already doing some of these things and doing them well. However, there’s always opportunity for improvement and innovation. That starts with looking at what others across the state and nation are doing.

We look forward to seeing how this particular program works for our friends in the neighboring Delta and hope officials here keep just as close of watch.

Online: http://www.djournal.com

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May 9

The Commercial Dispatch says jobs for felons help to strengthen a community:

This week, the Lowndes Community Foundation and the CREATE Foundation released a report on the information it gathered from a community meeting focused on the future of the county in March.

The meeting drew about 200 people of all backgrounds to discuss the obstacles and opportunities facing our community.

Poverty, unemployment and a break-down of the family unit were identified among the issues that threaten to impede our community’s progress.

Last week, Matthew Riley, statewide re-entry coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), hosted an “82 Counties in 82 Days” program in Columbus. Riley is visiting each county in the state to encourage employers to consider hiring people with criminal records.

Riley was probably not aware of the Lowndes Community Foundation report, but his efforts are very much related to some of the fears expressed citizens in the community meeting.

Mississippi’s incarceration rate is the fifth highest in the nation - for every 100,000 residents, there are 597 in jail or prison. Currently, there are more than 18,000 people in our state’s jails and prisons.

Most of these offenders will be released. There is no reliable data for recidivism in the state - in Mississippi; the rate is only calculated for those former inmates who have been out of jail or prison for three years. Even so, MDOC’s records show that 32 percent of those released from prison are back in prison within three years. That’s one in three offenders. Chances are, that rate is even higher when those who have been out of prison longer than three years in factored in.

Mississippians go to prison at a high rate and return to prison at a high rate, too, a fact that not only have devastating impacts on the inmate and his family, but for the community as a whole. When we say poverty, unemployment and a break-down in the family unit are problems, we are often describing the symptoms of Mississippi’s revolving door prison population.

One of the best tools to reverse this trend is finding employers who are willing to hire felons. According to his data, Riley said the felon who is able to find a job is three times less likely to go back to prison. Recently, the state legislature has been working on laws that will help felons become productive citizens, citizens who will support their families and break the cycle of poverty that often leads to desperation and crime.

While some employers do hire felons, for many others a felony conviction is an automatic dis-qualifier. So often it’s an unnecessary risk.

A “second chance” can be a powerful motivator though. Felons often prove to be the hardest, most honest employees because they are determined to make good and prove themselves to their employers, their families, their community.

To judge a person strictly on the basis of that person’s worst moment is to deny that opportunity to the detriment of the felon, his family and the community.

Hiring felons at a greater rate won’t address all of the obstacles identified in the Lowndes Community Foundation’s report, but data shows it can get at poverty, unemployment and family unity.

Sometimes, the only thing that stands between a felon and a lifetime of crime is a job.

We encourage employers to keep an open mind when a person with a felony applies for a job.

It goes beyond an act of kindness. It makes our community stronger, safer, better.

Online: http://www.cdispatch.com/

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