Mississippi Ranks 48th in U.S. in Public Health Spending
July 6, 2012
by Rhonda Miller
Mississippi Public Broadcasting
A recent study ranks Mississippi 48th in the nation in funding for public health. MPB’s Rhonda Miller takes a look at what the diagnosis means for for the health of the Magnolia State.
State health leaders agree on one thing – something has to be done to address the life-and-death issues of heart disease, cancer, obesity and diabetes. During a recent health summit in Hattiesburg, Chairman of the State Board of Health Dr. Luke Lampton said anemic funding is a contributing factor to Mississippi’s health problems .
"The state has to get its priorities right. Why is it spending one-ninth of what Alabama is on public health? Louisiana and Arkansas spend five times more."
Lampton was quoting a recent study by the Trust for America's Health, which reported Mississippi spends about $9 per resident, while Alabama spends $70, Arkansas spends $51 and Louisiana spends $49 per resident on public health.
Lampton doesn’t see federal funding for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act as a magic bullet for Mississippi’s health problems.
"There could be great benefit in the plan. I think there’s also a lot of possibility of bad things, too. I think those who have reviewed the bill see too much bureaucracy. Personally, I’d like more of the money spent on direct patient care."
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant offered early opposition to the Medicaid expansion. He said even the state’s small share of funding would be disastrous to the state budget.
However, the state insurance commissioner advised the governor this week to delay any decision until the options for Medicaid expansion can be explored.
But the director of the Mississippi Network for Cancer Control and Prevention, Freddie White Johnson, says illness doesn’t wait.
"So many people are dying prematurely. We see people dying from stage four breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer because of lack of transportation, lack of insurance."
Johnson knows first-hand how lack of insurance affects health. Her father had no insurance when he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. He applied for Medicare. Six weeks later he died. Three months after his death, his Medicare card came in the mail.
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