/Reeves vetoes $50M appropriation to UMMC

Reeves vetoes $50M appropriation to UMMC

Reeves’ partial veto on Senate Bill 3010 prevents $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding from being appropriated by the state Legislature to UMMC for capital improvements to UMMC’s adult hospital’s operating suites and patient care facilities. The governor justification for the veto was that although UMMC’s teaching centre is largely funded through the state, the hospital does not. The governor accused the hospital of “willingly” refusing patients with private insurance. This is a reference to UMMC’s contract dispute that occurred with Blue Cross, which has led to the hospital being out of network. UMMC does not accept Blue Cross insurance, but it is not refusing to treat patients who are covered by the insurer. These patients will have to pay out of pocket for their care, but at a reduced rate. Reeves stated in a statement that there is no reason for Mississippi taxpayers to radically increase their commitment to further subsidize UMMC’s operations to the detriment or competitors. READ MORE: Blue Cross and UMMC agree on mediation to resolve contract dispute. Officials at UMMC declined to comment on the implications of the loss of funding for planned hospital improvements. ARPA funding is also available to the hospital for improving teaching facilities, including $55million for its School of Nursing. The governor vetoed a appropriation to UMMC, which is responsible for treating many of the state’s uninsured. However, he approved a $7 million appropriation to Gulfport Memorial Hospital. Reeves signed the legislation into law this week. It provides $7 million for Gulfport Memorial to fund a pediatric multispecialty centre on or near the hospital campus. This is in collaboration with the University of Mississippi Medical Centre and Gulf Coast Community College. UMMC, a state-owned public hospital, was approved earlier this week. Gulfport Memorial is a not-for profit public hospital jointly owned by Harrison County and the city of Gulfport. Reeves has publicly clashed against Dr. LouAnn Woodward (Vice-Chancellor of Health Affairs and Medical School Dean at UMMC), over his handling the COVID-19 pandemic. Kent Nicaud (chief executive officer at Memorial Hospital of Gulfport) hosted a fundraiser for Governor Reeves in the midst a pandemic. Health care experts advised caution at social events as many hospitals in the state were full at the time. Nicaud was a member of Reeves’ state financial committee for his 2019 governorship campaign. He has donated thousands of dollars to Governor Reeves. Nicaud’s younger brother has been a major campaign donor to Reeves. Although the state constitution grants the governor partial power of veto, the courts have significantly restricted that power in previous rulings. State courts have significantly restricted the governor’s ability to veto certain appropriations and spending bills in rulings dating back to 1800s. This was until a 2020 Supreme Court decision. The state Supreme Court previously ruled that governors cannot veto “the purpose or conditions” of appropriations bill. Instead, the governor must veto all sections of a bill and not individual earmarks. The court, which had six of nine justices agreeing, reversed previous decisions. Six of the nine justices on the state’s highest court ruled that legislators didn’t have standing to challenge a governor’s partial veto in court. It would then be up to UMMC and the Institutions of Higher Learning, to file a lawsuit challenging constitutionality of the partial veto. The $50 million will be returned to the state’s ARPA funds pool, which the Legislature can use until 2024, if the UMMC veto has not been challenged. Partially vetoed in 2020 also included health care and another round federal coronavirus relief spending. The governor vetoed $2 million in appropriations that were earmarked for the then-closed North Oak Regional Medical Center, Tate County. It would have received if it reopened. Reeves also canceled a $6 million appropriation to a program to address health care disparities in low-income and minority communities. Reeves also stated that building improvements were not the best way of spending $50 million on pandemic relief funding. He cited a greater demand for staffing by health care providers in each state. Reeves stated that the money would have been better spent on one of the programs he signed recently to encourage more training for state-based doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. “After all, during COVID we always had sufficient beds for patients. “The central problem was always the inability of hospitals to properly staff beds.” The claim by the governor that there were always enough beds available for COVID-19 victims is incorrect. Staffing shortages were and still are a problem for all hospitals in the state. However, capacity problems also developed during the pandemic’s delta wave. To handle the patient overflow, UMMC needed to build two separate field hospitals in parking lots. Over the course of the pandemic, Mississippi lost over 2,000 nurses due to burnout and higher-paying jobs in other states. Many of these were in travel nursing. This issue has been addressed with some ARPA funding, which includes $40 million to train nurses at colleges and universities and $6,000,000 for student loans for forgiveness. This report was contributed by Geoff Pender. To support this important work, you can make a regular donation to the Spring Member Drive today.