Mississippi editorial roundup

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Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

March 31

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss., on medical use of marijuana easing pain and suffering:

Gov. Phil Bryant has been sent legislation that would permit marijuana oil to be used strictly for medical purposes. We strongly encourage him to sign the bill into law.

The legislation mandates tightly controlled circumstances for the use of the medication. As reported by the Associated Press, it would be available only by prescription and dispensed through a University of Mississippi Medical Center pharmacy. The medical center would obtain its supply from the University of Mississippi's National Center for Natural Products Research in Oxford. That center grows marijuana for medical research sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

As with all medications, side effects should be carefully monitored.

This particular use of medication derived from marijuana has been shown to relieve the pain and suffering of certain patients, including children susceptible to seizures. In other forms, marijuana has been shown to serve other medical purposes as well.

In time, perhaps Mississippians will be able to obtain all the medical benefits marijuana now offers other Americans.

Online:

http://www.sunherald.com

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April 1

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Miss., on Cooper Tire bond bill solidifying major asset:

The Legislature on Monday approved a $230 million state bonding package bill that includes provision of a $20 million bond issue spread over three years to help assure Cooper Tire's continued strong employment and manufacturing presence in Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi.

Cooper, which occupies a sprawling 1,600-employee complex on Coley Road and South Green Street, proposes spending $140 million in major equipment upgrades paired with approximately $38 million in aid and tax exemption incentives from the state, Tupelo and Lee County.

It would commit to a continued Tupelo operation with at least 1,300 employees for at least 10 years. An earlier similar agreement saw Cooper employment rise beyond the minimum commitment to 1,600 employees.

Monday's approval of a carefully crafted conference committee report provides for funding the Cooper bond issue through the Mississippi Development Authority, the main state agency dealing with economic expansion and sustained employment of historically strong manufacturers.

The bill also approves more than $30 million in bonds to build a new classroom building for the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in Jackson. The medical school project was a top priority of Gov. Phil Bryant, who has vowed to improve health care statewide, including additional physicians from the Ole Miss School of Medicine, the state's only public medical school.

Also included is $23 million for community colleges and $14 million for a history and civil rights museum complex the state is building in Jackson. The museums are set to be completed and open in time for the state to celebrate its bicentennial in 2017.

All the universities will receive substantial funding for capital projects.

Credit is due Lee County's legislative delegation and others from Northeast Mississippi for strongly supporting the Cooper Tire bond issue and for helping persuade their legislative colleagues to put it in the bond bill, always a difficult package to negotiate.

The persistence of Cooper employees and executives who lobbied Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and many legislators was critically important to eventual approval.

Cooper's 10-year commitment will mean approximately $630 million in payroll, not counting any general raises that might be implemented during the period.

Online:

http://djournal.com

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March 31

Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth on Medicaid decision hurting hospitals:

Mississippi's decision to opt out of the Medicaid expansion is hurting the state's hospitals the most in the medical community.

The state's physicians, at least those not employed by hospitals, are not all that moved since many of them are not too keen on Medicaid due to its low reimbursement rate. According to a recent survey conducted by Mississippi State University, 53 percent of the state's primary care physicians are not accepting new Medicaid patients. The number is a bit better with specialists, but still high: About 40 percent of obstetricians and pediatricians are not taking new Medicaid patients.

Observers say they don't blame the doctors, since the government insurance program doesn't pay what it costs to treat the patient, imposes lots of red tape and is slow to cut reimbursement checks.

Hospitals, though, don't have the discretion that physicians do. The hospitals by federal law have to treat everyone who walks into their doors, including those who can't pay for the services. For the hospitals, it's a lot better to get a Medicaid reimbursement, even below cost, than nothing.

According to the American Hospital Association, on average a U.S. hospital receives 89 cents in reimbursement from Medicaid for every dollar of treatment. Although an 11 percent loss is not ideal, it's better than a 100 percent loss.

In the past, hospitals with a large amount of uncompensated care would receive subsidies from the federal government to partially offset it. These subsidies, though, are being slashed to help pay for the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Thus, Mississippi hospitals — if the Republican leadership continues to stubbornly oppose extending coverage to the working poor — are being hit with a double whammy: fewer subsidies and no additional Medicaid dollars.

If something doesn't give, the smaller, more rural hospitals in Mississippi may not be able to keep their doors open, and every hospital in this state will be pinched.

So far, Gov. Phil Bryant and GOP legislative leaders are less worried about that than they are about getting crosswise with the tea party faction that's against anything and everything associated with President Barack Obama.

Online:

http://www.gwcommonwealth.com

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