Mississippi editorial roundup
Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:
The Columbus Dispatch on organized coat drives:
Today’s bitterly cold weather is more a preview of coming attractions than the arrival of winter, which doesn’t officially begin until Dec. 21.
As we arose to the first genuinely cold day since last winter, our attention turned suddenly to the normal preparations for winter -- making sure our homes’ heating systems are ready for use, our cars have appropriate anti-freeze, our outdoor pipes are insulated and provisions made for plants and pets. No doubt, many will convert their wardrobe for the approaching season.
Hopefully, this taste of winter will inspire us to think of others.
For the poor in our community, winter weather is far more than an inconvenience. It can pose a significant health risk, too. Each year, it is estimated that 200,000 Americans die as a result of exposure to cold weather. In addition to obvious cold-related health threats such as hypothermia, studies show that exposure to severe cold can increase the risk of heart attack by 31%. Children are especially vulnerable, since they can’t regulate body temperature as efficiently as adults. The threat of pneumonia among children exposed to severe cold is much higher than for adults, as a result.
Our community is blessed with many organizations that cater to these needs, but there seems to be one specific need that has yet to find a consistent benefactor -- winter coats.
Storing and sorting donated coats takes a lot of space and manpower.
Those of you who belong to civic or church groups looking for a way to help should consider sponsoring a coat drive.
Every year, it seems some group takes up this cause. The drives have been known to start as early as the Thanksgiving weekend and as late as mid-January, often as part of Martin Luther King Day of Service.
As today’s cold weather reminds us, it’s not too early to start thinking about just how much a warm coat means to those in need, especially the homeless, for whom a coast is their best, perhaps only, defense against the cold.
So, if your group is searching for a way meet the needs of the less fortunate, a winter coat drive seems like an obvious choice. It’s not proprietary, either. The only thing better than a coat drive is two or three or four coat drives.
If you or your group is inspired to start a coat drive, be sure to let us know and we’ll help spread the word.
The (Tupelo) Daily Journal on diabetes:
November is National Diabetes Month, a time when communities across the country team up to bring attention to diabetes. More than 30 million Americans, or 9.4% of the population, suffer from diabetes, and it costs more than $300B each year.
Mississippi ranks third among states in the prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Among adults, the statewide diabetes rate in Mississippi is 12.2%. In addition, an estimated 115,000 Mississippi residents, or nearly 4% of the population, has undiagnosed diabetes.
And it’s about to get worse. In every part of the United States, it’s expected to get costlier and more pervasive. By 2030, more than 18% of Mississippians are projected to have diabetes, a level amounting to a public health catastrophe. Florida and Alabama are the states with next highest rates of the disease. In fact, the South has a virtual lock on all the top places where diabetes will be an epidemic in 2030.
As such, it is important to understand the seriousness of the disease, while also realizing healthy living with diabetes is an achievable goal for each individual diagnosed. Adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes. This is because over time, high blood glucose from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart.
It is also important to realize adopting healthy lifestyle changes can deter Type 2 diabetes altogether or delay it by 58%.
How about prevention? Obesity is the underlying cause of late onset Type 2 diabetes, which accounts for more than 90% of new cases. Today, about 40% of U.S. adults are considered obese, up from about 30% two decades ago, according to the latest CDC report.
The good news is that the steps you take to manage your diabetes can also help lower your chances of having heart disease or a stroke: Stop smoking, manage your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, and develop healthy lifestyle habits.
Nov. 14 is World Diabetes Day and blue is the global color for campaigns. Dress your family in blue and go blue at home by putting a blue bulb in your porch light or lighting a blue candle.
Let’s use this month to raise awareness about diabetes risk factors and encourage people to make healthy changes.
The Greenwood Commonwealth on Medicaid expansion:
With last week’s election of Tate Reeves as Mississippi’s next governor, it would appear that Medicaid expansion is off the table for the foreseeable future.
During his tenure as lieutenant governor, the Republican expressed no interest in accepting the federal government’s offer to pay most of the cost to extend the health insurance to the state’s working poor. And early during the campaign, he called the offer “Obamacare expansion” and signaled that opposition to most anything associated with the former Democratic president would be a hallmark of his tenure as governor.
“I’m opposed to Obamacare expansion in Mississippi,” he told reporters last January, and repeated himself two times for emphasis.
What sounds unequivocal during a campaign, though, is not always so unequivocal afterward. Or at least that’s what some observers wondered after hearing Reeves take a somewhat more conciliatory tone on election night about Medicaid expansion.
The belief is that Reeves, having won the election, may be willing to bend a little on this issue since the next lieutenant governor, fellow Republican Delbert Hosemann, sounds open to expanding Medicaid coverage in some fashion.
Given the politics of the past year, it’s hard to see it happening, but that may depend on how willing Hosemann is to push the matter, and in what form such an expansion might take.
Hosemann has indicated an interest in the variation implemented in Arkansas, which uses federal Medicaid dollars to help uninsured people buy private health insurance. Arkansas also has work requirements and cost-sharing for certain Medicaid beneficiaries.
One option talked up for the last six months in Mississippi has been the plan offered by the Mississippi Hospital Association. It would cover the state’s 10% match by taxing the hospitals and charging a $20 per month premium to the new enrollees.
Although cost-sharing philosophically makes sense, Mississippi would have to be careful that whatever costs are passed on to potential Medicaid enrollees don’t prove counterproductive. The hospitals now pinched by too much uncompensated care would only see that burden significantly reduced if most of those eligible for the coverage actually signed up.
Recent studies cited by the Mississippi Center for Justice, a public interest law firm and advocacy group, show that even modest premiums can reduce participation in Medicaid.
One study, for example, found that premiums set at just 1% of family income reduced public insurance coverage by 15%, and those set at 3% cut enrollment by about 50%, Beth Orlansky, advocacy director for the Mississippi Center for Justice, recently wrote in an op-ed piece. She said that the Indiana model, on which the Mississippi Hospital Association plan is based, has had issues getting enrollees to consistently pay their premiums. In 2017, according to Orlansky, 18% of Indiana’s enrollees lost their Medicaid coverage entirely for failure to pay premiums.
All of this may be a moot discussion if Reeves isn’t willing to budge and Hosemann can’t command enough votes to override him.
But if the governor-elect comes to his senses and sees how economically foolish it is for Mississippi to remain one of 14 states not to expand, it’s probably a fair guess that he and other Republicans will want the enrollees to have “some skin in the game” — that is, to pay for a fraction of their coverage, just as most workers covered by their employers’ plans do.
Determining how much “skin” is the right amount would be a tricky proposition.