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Number of At-Risk Rural Mississippi Hospitals Falls to 28, Report Says

The number of rural hospitals at risk of closing in Mississippi is now 28, down from 38 late last year, reports the Pittsburgh, Pa.-based Center For Quality Healthcare and Payment Reform. Mississippi State Health Officer Dr. Daniel Edney and Medicaid-expansion advocates have repeatedly cited the old figure while warning that dozens of the state’s rural hospitals are in danger of financial collapse.

Magnolia Tribune founder Russ Latino first noted that CQHPR had revised its report in a Feb. 7 op-ed in which he questioned the sudden drop and the overall report’s veracity. “If accurate, this marks the largest drop of any state in alleged at-risk hospitals,” he wrote.

Harold D. Miller, the center’s president and CEO, told the Mississippi Free Press in an interview Tuesday that the center updates its report quarterly based on financial data those hospitals file with the Center For Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Asked about the 26% reduction in the number of at-risk hospitals, the CEO pointed to pandemic-era volatility, saying some hospitals may look better off than they did previously due to receiving pandemic-era assistance

“It is particularly challenging right now because of the pandemic assistance,” Miller said. “So many of these hospitals, particularly small rural hospitals, got very large grants from the federal government during the pandemic.”

With each report, Miller said, the center attempts to estimate hospitals’ losses, examine whether they have other sources of revenue to cover patient services such as local tax dollars and look at assets they have in the bank.

“So the problem is, this federal money came, and you don’t know exactly how much the hospital received and whether they can keep it all because they had to use it to pay for pandemic-related expenses,” he told the Mississippi Free Press. “Every time the new data comes out, some hospitals will look like they have more money because these grants were earned.”

Miller said the firm uses three-year averages when looking at profits and losses, but the pandemic complicated that, too. The center is still using information about hospitals before the pandemic to make its assessments, he said.

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