By Anthony Whisenant, policy intern –
The Mississippi Rural Health Association is pleased to report a successful legislative session this year. We have been supporting and tracking multiple bills throughout the year, working with lawmakers and supplying information to assist with successful passage. The following is a description of legislation that passed this year that the MRHA has been watching and supporting:
Mississippi House Bill 365 (top supported bill by the MRHA)
House bill 365 establishes the Mississippi Rural Hospital Loan Program in the state department of health to assist rural hospitals in providing needed direct healthcare services. This increased funding will allow rural hospitals to offer additional services in their community that are not currently available there now, maintain or increase their staffing levels, and keep up with necessary facility maintenance. For rural hospitals to be eligible for loans they must submit a financial audit proving they are in a good financial position. The loan they receive may not be less than twenty-five thousand dollars or more than one-hundred thousand dollars. The department will determine terms, conditions, and requirements for loans. This loan program will be funded through a state appropriated $2.5 million in support. Note: the MRHA would love to have seen the loan amount increase to a cap of $1 million per facility, but this is a great start. A big thank you to Rep. Sam Mims for his sponsorship of this bill.
Mississippi House Bill 732
House bill 732 provides legislative intent to assure all Mississippians receive a consistent level of 9-8-8 and crisis behavioral service no matter where they live. The purpose for the signing of this bill is to save lives of Mississippi residents by providing them better access to services pertaining to the behavioral health crisis. This bill authorizes the state department of mental health to use technology that is interoperable across emergency response systems in Mississippi and to deploy crisis and outgoing services.
Mississippi House Bill 1421
House bill 1421 establishes a grant program known as the Arpa Rural Water Infrastructure Grant Program in order to assist rural water associations in the construction of eligible drinking water infrastructure projects. Upon approval, the department will enter into a project grant agreement with each guarantee to establish the terms of the grant for the project, including the amount of the grant. In the first fiscal year after the effective date of this act, twenty percent of the funds appropriated to the department for the program will be obligated to projects that have completed plans and specifications, acquired all necessary land and/or easements, and are ready to proceed to construction.
Mississippi House Bill 1538
House bill 1538 provides additional appropriation to the state department of health for the purpose of funding the Arpa Rural Water Associations Infrastructure Grant Program establishes under house bill 1421. As a condition of receiving and expending the funds appropriated to the department under this act, the department shall certify to the Department of Finance and Administration that each expenditure of the funds appropriated to the department under this act complies with the guidelines, guidance, rules, regulations and/or other criteria. It states that the money appropriated by the act will be paid by the State Treasurer out of any money in the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund.
Mississippi House Bill 1613
House bill 1613 makes appropriation to the Governor’s Office-Division of Medicaid for the purpose of providing medical assistance under the Mississippi Medicaid Law and defraying the expense of that law for the fiscal year 2023. With this bill, the Governor’s Office – Division of Medicaid will provide statistical and financial reports monthly to the Legislative Budget Office and the PEER Committee. These reports include an accounting of all funds spent in the medical program, the CHIP program, the Dialysis Transportation program, and each of the Home and Community Based Waiver programs. The reports will also include an accounting of all funds spent in the administrative program, participant statistics, and any other information requested by the Legislative Budget Office and the PEER Committee.
Mississippi Senate Bill 2738 (top supported bill by the MRHA)
The purpose of senate bill 2738 is to revise the definition of telemedicine as it is used in the statute requiring health insurance plans to provide coverage for telemedicine services. It requires health insurance and employee benefit plans to reimburse providers for telemedicine services using the proper medical codes. It provides that all health insurance and employee benefit plans in Mississippi must provide coverage for telemedicine services to the same extent that the services would be covered if they were provided through in-person consultation. All health insurance and employee benefit plans in this state must reimburse providers who are out-of-network for telemedicine services under the same reimbursement policies applicable to other out-of-network providers of healthcare services. A big thank you to Senators Boyd and Michel for their sponsorship of this bill.
Mississippi Senate Bill 2739
Senate bill 2739 requires nonemergency medical transportation (NEMT) providers to have a permit from the state department of health before they may provide NEMT transportation services in Mississippi. It requires the department to adopt rules providing for applications of permits, issuance of permits, renewal of permits, and revocation of permits. The bill authorizes the department to provide for the payment of fees for the issuance and renewal of permits. It requires the department to adopt standards for the operation of vehicles used to provide NEMT transportation services. The bill also authorizes the department to revoke the permit of or impose fines on any NEMT provider who is found to not follow the requirements and standards set by the department.
Mississippi Senate Bill 2865
Senate bill 2865 makes appropriation from the Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund to the Department of Mental Health for the purpose of assisting with behavioral and mental health needs. The legislation intends that no funds under this act should be used to pay employee premium payments. The bill states that as a condition of receiving the funds appropriated in this act, the Department of Mental Health shall obtain advice from the Office of the Coordinator of Mental Health Accessibility when determining the utilization of funds.
Unfortunately one bill that did not pass this year was a bill sponsored by both the House and Senate to remove the Medicaid rate freeze, which was originally established in the Medicaid Technical Bill in 2021. This bill made it to conference, but unfortunately was not able to pass out of conference. We are hopeful that this rate freeze will be removed soon.
Note: The Mississippi Rural Health Association would like to thank its policy intern Anthony Whisenant for his work tracking this legislation and providing summaries to the MRHA membership.