Mississippi is one of the most uninsured states in America, according to new data.
The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, released last month, shows that in 2022, Mississippi had one of the highest percentages of people without health insurance coverage in the country, along with Alaska, Wyoming, Texas, Nevada, Arizona, Oklahoma, Georgia and Florida.
States in the South had some of the highest uninsured rates, according to the survey.
The same survey showed that Mississippi has the fifth highest uninsurance rate among working age people from 19 to 64. Only Texas, Oklahoma, Georgia and Wyoming have worse uninsurance rates.
Another Census survey, the Household Pulse survey, conducted from Aug. 23 to Sept. 4 shows Mississippi had the highest level of uninsurance among working age people during that time frame. Almost every one in five Mississippians ages 18-64, or 20.44%, likely didn’t have insurance, according to a Mississippi Today analysis of the data.
It also shows that during that period 16.9%, or about one in six Mississippians of all ages, were uninsured. That’s an increase from 14.7% in March, according to the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, though a researcher from the center said the latter survey’s results should be carefully considered.
The Household Pulse survey can be used to monitor trends and data, but Robert Hest, a senior research fellow at the center, said it shouldn’t be used to draw definitive conclusions because of its short data collection period and low response rate.
The American Community Survey is more reliable, he said.
“We would be very surprised to see that Mississippi has the nation’s highest rate of uninsurance,” he said. “Mississippi’s uninsured rate, though often among the highest, is typically lower than uninsured rates in other states such as Texas, Florida and Georgia.”
According to the American Community Survey, Mississippi’s total uninsured rate was 10.8% and its uninsured rate among people aged 19 to 64 was 16.4% in 2022.
The new data comes as states across the country review the eligibility of Medicaid beneficiaries for the first time in three years. During the pandemic, state Medicaid divisions were prohibited from removing anyone from their rolls. Those regulations ended in May.
So far, almost 70,000 people have been kicked off Medicaid in Mississippi — most of them because of paperwork issues, not eligibility. Many of the people who have been disenrolled are children.
From March to September, Mississippi’s overall Medicaid coverage decreased from 19.8% to 16.7%, the survey also shows.
State Health Officer Dr. Dan Edney said health insurance saved his life — and cost him his father’s.
Edney’s father, who didn’t have health insurance, died at 56 of colon cancer, a preventable disease, he said. At 47, Edney underwent a screening that detected premalignant polyps – a discovery he credits to having insurance and access to preventative care.
“I want all Mississippians to have the same access to life-saving screenings that I have, but too many are dying young as my father did,” he said.
Mississippi’s high uninsured rate is costing hospitals, too.
As the state’s health crisis continues, uncompensated care costs — the money hospitals lose caring for uninsured patients — are putting further burden on hospitals.
Uncompensated care costs for Mississippi hospitals have hovered around $600 million a year. According to one study, Medicaid expansion would cut Mississippi hospitals’ uncompensated care by an average of $251.6 million a year from 2020-2030.
One report puts almost half of the state’s hospitals at risk of closing.
Gov. Tate Reeves recently announced a plan to help bring more money to hospitals, but reiterated his opposition to Medicaid expansion at the same press conference.
His plan will likely keep some hospitals open for longer, but it won’t insure more Mississippians. That means uninsured people in Mississippi will generally have to continue to rely on the emergency room for their medical care — emergency rooms cannot turn away patients, though doctor’s offices and pharmacies can.
“Investing in our hospitals is critically important, and we need solutions to help uninsured Mississippians have access to our hospitals, especially outpatient services, which are critically important for improving poor health outcomes,” Edney said. “Without appropriate access to preventive services, it will be difficult to improve our extremely poor health outcomes.”
Alex Rozier contributed to this report.