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Clergy Supports Access To Healthcare

Letter of Support for Increasing Access to Affordable Health Care in Mississippi and Creating Healthier Communities Statewide

We, the undersigned faith leaders and institutional leaders, join with Working Together Mississippi in urging the Mississippi Legislature to pass legislation increasing the access to affordable health care for 300,000 uninsured Mississippians.

Within the scriptures of all faiths, there are myriad passages with a single message, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” How better to show love for our neighbors than to show concern for their health and well-being? As more and more of us are confronted with the realities of the impact of this Novel COVID-19 Pandemic, there are some clear concerns and conclusions:

● More than 300,000 adults in Mississippi are without health insurance;
● It is projected that state unemployment will increase to as much as 17% as a result of the pandemic; thus, resulting in an increase in the number of uninsured.
● Prior to the pandemic, five rural hospitals had closed; half of those remaining are at high financial risk. The pandemic has increased this risk;
● The effect of the pandemic on the working poor and minorities has proven to be vastly disproportionate, in part because of the lack of sufficient access to healthcare;
● In its efforts to control and contain the effects of this coronavirus health crisis, Mississippi has again been offered the opportunity to answer the question of how to deliver a system of adequate and equitable healthcare to all its citizens.

The Mississippi Cares Plan proposed by the Mississippi Hospital Association (MHA) is one possible legislative remedy to our current problem. It would, following the example of the Good Samaritan in the Christian Scriptures, aid Mississippi’s working poor and require no state funding.

It simply involves providing them the services offered by the Medicaid program. Adults who earn up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level would qualify. They would receive the same benefits and pay the same co-pays as other Medicaid recipients. The MHA proposes that, with certain exceptions, non-employed participants must enroll in a job training program, education, or volunteer program.

The MHA proposal includes the fact that this extension of healthcare to the working poor of Mississippi would be funded 90% by the Federal Government and the Hospital Plan could cover the other 10% with no state funds required.

There are other options that could be developed such as using the State Risk Pool to draw down the cost to the state of using the Medicaid Expansion provisions of the Affordable Care Act. WTM and the undersigned are pledged to working with Legislative leaders to find a solution to the access to health care and the economic crisis facing the hospitals of our state.

An Affordable Access plan should do the following:
● Make healthcare accessible when and where needed;
● Help sustain hospitals, especially in rural areas where there is extraordinary need;
● Reduce uncompensated care by 40-50%, a situation which currently threatens the survival of our hospitals;
● Give the State the much-needed time, while working with community partners such as the MHA, to design/develop a way to sustain this level of healthcare for up to 300,000 currently uninsured residents.

Our organizations, along with Working Together Mississippi, urges the passage of legislation that expands access to affordable healthcare for all Missississippians.

Signed,

Bishop Joseph Kopacz of the Catholic Diocese of Jackson
Bishop Louis F. Kihneman of the Catholic Diocese of Biloxi
Bishop James Edward Swanson, Mississippi Area of the United Methodist Church
Bishop Brian Seage of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi
Dr. Jerry Young, President of the National Baptist Convention USA, New Hope Baptist Church
Bishop Daniel Littleton, Church of God in Christ, Mississippi Southern First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction
Presiding Bishop Joseph R. Campbell, South Central Diocese COCHUSA
Rev. Dr. K. Jason Coker, Coordinator, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
Bishop Ronnie Crudup, Sr. New Horizon Church International
Rev. Rob Lowry, Fondren Presbyterian Church in Jackson
Imam Ameen Abdur-Rashied, Masjid Muhammad in Jackson
Rev. Jeffery Landis, Gulf States Mennonite Conference
Rev. Horace McMillon, Open Door Mennonite Church in Jackson

If you are clergy in MS and wish to have your name added to this list as a co-signer, please fill out the form at this link.

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