Storm preparation is a major priority for many cities across the nation, and rightly so.
But where’s the preparation for healthcare “storms,” like COVID-19?
Mississippi has what’s believed to be the weakest health system in the country, according to a recent article in the New York Times, and it’s close to buckling under the latest tempest of COVID-19 cases, triggered by the highly contagious Delta variant.
The state has fewer active physicians per capita than any other, five rural hospitals have closed in the past decade, and 35 more hospitals are at imminent risk of closing, according to an assessment from a nonprofit health care quality agency. To top it off, there are 2,000 fewer nurses in Mississippi today than there were at the beginning of the year, according to the state hospital association.
The state’s health system struggled pre-pandemic and is ill-prepared to weather this latest storm of COVID-19 cases.
Who’s to blame? The article lists a slew of reasons—political battles, the decline to expand Medicaid, abject poverty. But one player is mysteriously missing.
The state’s top health insurer.
Mississippi is one of the poster children—along with Alabama—for total domination of the health insurance market by one payor. Any guesses on who that might be?
As the only dog in the fight, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi has substantial leverage and power, and now that we’re seeing a system so strained—and maybe close to failing—we must ask what responsibility BCBS of Mississippi ought to bear in getting the state to this situation.
The hospitals are financially starved, and it’s time for BCBS of Mississippi to pay providers fairly, to support local hospitals and physicians, and to help support the modernization of Mississippi’s healthcare system. It’s time to pile up the sandbags of storm support.