Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss., on expanding Medicaid:
Discussion of Medicaid expansion in Mississippi will take center stage as legislative hearings get under way and groups on both sides of the issue hold rallies.
To date, all we have heard is a lot of political posturing and partisan disagreement. All it has gotten us is a failed attempt to simply reauthorize Medicaid under its current form. No meaningful discussion of anything else has taken place.
Legislative leaders, so far, have been quiet on the issue. While we know they are against expanding Medicaid in general, they will say nothing when questioned about how they plan to handle cuts to federal funds that hospitals use to cover the cost of indigent care. These funds represent roughly $200 million annually to Mississippi health care providers across the state.
We understand the politics behind not stating a position on a controversial matter before one absolutely must. However, we're not interested in the politics of our legislative leaders. We are interested in their ideas on Medicaid expansion in the event our hospitals are placed at risk.
Gov. Phil Bryant, up until recently, had held his tongue as well. Speaking against the health care overhaul and Medicaid expansion in general, Bryant — like Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and House Speaker Philip Gunn — would only say we don't have enough information. But now, Bryant stated unequivocally that he would not support Medicaid expansion under any scenario. Instead, he would sue the federal government.
While we question the wisdom of such a lawsuit — not to mention the certain mountain of legal fees it would pile up — at least Bryant is speaking candidly. We could use more candid discussion.
In Arkansas, state leaders are looking at expanding Medicaid by using the federal funds to purchase private insurance plans for those who qualify for the program. Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe said the plan came from leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature, who otherwise would not have supported expansion.
In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott proposed Medicaid expansion by privatizing the program. Unlike Arkansas, Scott wanted to put Medicaid recipients in private health care management plans.
We are not necessarily endorsing either of these ideas. They are both fraught with pitfalls, but they both show ingenuity and creative thinking. They came from open dialogue among state leaders, which is missing here in Mississippi. ...
The Commercial Dispatch, Columbus, Miss., on a cure for HIV:
Generally, when Mississippi makes national news — especially of late — it is not the sort of notoriety we welcome. ...
So March 3, when Mississippi again made national news, we braced ourselves for the embarrassment that was sure to follow.
Only this time, it wasn't anything to be embarrassed about.
It was reported a child treated at Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson had become the first child — and just the second person — to have been cured of the HIV infection that leads to AIDS, a cure that can be mainly attributed to Dr. Hannah Gay, a University of Mississippi Medical Center pediatric infectious disease specialist.
When the child, whose name has not been made public, was diagnosed with HIV just hours after birth, Gay decided to begin treating the child immediately, with the first dose of antivirals given within 31 hours of birth. That's faster than most infants born with HIV get treated, and specialists think it's one important factor in the child's cure.
In addition, Gay gave higher-than-usual, "therapeutic" doses of three powerful HIV drugs rather than the "prophylactic" doses usually given in these circumstances.
Over the months, the baby thrived, and standard tests could detect no virus in her blood, which is the normal result from antiviral treatment. After losing contact with the child for almost a year, Gay was successful in tracking down the infant and subsequent testing revealed that even without continuing treatment, the child showed no evidence of HIV. In short, the child was cured.
The implications of Gay's work are potentially staggering. More than a 1,000 children a year are born with HIV, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries.
While much research lies ahead, Gay's work with the child may someday be considered a major breakthrough in the fight against AIDS.
The record will show that the ground-breaking work began in Mississippi and was performed by a Mississippi-educated doctor.
And, for once, that's nothing to laugh at.
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Tupelo, on state water association legislation:
Rep. Jerry Turner's effort to require open meetings of water associations and notice of meetings in which members of boards of directors will be elected remains alive in the Legislature. It should be enacted in the interests of transparency in the running of the nonprofit associations providing water for a significant percentage of Mississippi's population.
Turner, a Republican who represents District 18 (Lee and Prentiss counties), amended Senate Bill 2322, which in original form simply would have removed water associations from any oversight by the Public Service Commission.
Turner, who represents an area that includes at least part of the North Lee County Water Association, was instrumental in reorganizing the water association after internal mismanagement and criminality by a staff member led to its board's resignation in 2011 and re-election of a new board.
North Lee's new leadership sends notice of its annual directors election meeting, and its regular meetings are open.
However, Turner has said transparency is the key to keeping water associations on the straight and narrow. We agree.
House Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency chairman Turner amended the legislation before it passed his committee to require that all rural water associations' meetings be open to their customers and to require that the customers receive notice of meetings where boards of directors are elected.
"I am a firm believer that as long as you have transparency that will solve just about any problem you have," Turner said. "If you have open meetings and the members are informed, they will sort out the problems."
Informed citizens and consumers often are the best watchdogs over the affairs of public associations, including those classified as nonprofits.
The bill will be taken up by the full House, and if it passes there, it would go back to the Senate.