Editorial roundup – 11/18/15

Paris slaughter demands solidarity

It is an insult to the wild kingdom to call the terrorists “animals” who killed at least 129 people and injured more than 350 in Paris Friday night. There is no species but man that would wantonly kill and maim innocent creatures to retaliate for the actions of others, or who would turn their own bodies into weapons of mass destruction.

The Islamic State group — fanatical Muslims who have videoed their beheadings of Western captives and are pursuing a genocide against Christians and even other Muslims who do not adhere to their antiquarian beliefs — is taking credit for the orchestrated attacks on outdoor cafes, a soccer stadium and a concert hall in the French capital.

But whether it was the Islamic State or some other terrorist group, it doesn’t really matter.
They all are a threat to Western civilization and the freedoms associated with it. Their barbarism cannot be mollified, only obliterated.

Thus, Americans must stand in solidarity with our French allies, who this year have been victimized by two horrific acts of terrorism — the first being the slaughter in January at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery.

In fact, we would not be surprised if Friday’s assault was triggered by a U.S. drone strike the day before that took out a particularly evil Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John.”

Americans should grieve with our French friends while understanding that what happened in Paris could just as easily have happened in New York, Washington or any major U.S. city. We must add our military muscle to theirs, doing whatever it takes to decimate the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations and drive their weakened remnants back into their holes.

An unfortunate outcome of the attack in Paris will probably be the additional suffering it will cause for refugees from Syria and other parts of the war-torn Middle East. At least one of the suicide bombers is believed to have entered Western Europe with the tens of thousands of civilians fleeing from Syria. The Paris slaughter is going to make France and the rest of the Western world more reluctant to open their doors to refugees until those seeking asylum have been fully vetted — a process that, to do it right, can take a year or two.

Although the humanitarian impulses of Western nations is to try to relieve acute suffering wherever it exists in the world, their first responsibility is to protect their own.

Tim Kalich
Editor and Publisher
Greenwood Commonwealth

Rural hospitals pay price of politics

Mississippi’s mulish refusal to expand its Medicaid program is not the only reason that a number of rural hospitals in this state are on life support.

It certainly, though, has contributed to their problems.

A new study, conducted by researchers at Mississippi State University and commissioned by the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, identifies nine rural hospitals in the state that are at risk of closure. If they were to shut down, the study says, not only would it have a major detrimental impact on access to care for those who live in those areas. It would also be a major economic blow to these communities. The study says the nine hospitals account for 2,600 jobs, $8.6 million annually in state and local taxes and almost $290 million in economic impact.

The study’s warning is not new. In 2014, the state auditor listed six hospitals that were at risk of closure. And a national study released earlier this year identified Mississippi as having the highest percentage of financially vulnerable hospitals, more than 30 percent.

There are a lot of reasons that rural hospitals are in trouble. Their populations tend to be older, poorer, less educated and less healthy — so it costs more to treat them. Their patients are less likely to have health insurance, which drives up the percentage of uncompensated care these hospitals provide. If their patients do have coverage, it tends to be skewed heavily toward Medicare and Medicaid — which generally pay less than private insurance. The communities these hospitals serve are losing population, thus shrinking the hospitals’ potential customer base. And because these hospitals have a tough time recruiting physicians, particularly specialists, those patients who have the means to go elsewhere for care often do.

Many of these factors are beyond the state government’s control. But there is at least one that is: reducing the percentage of uncompensated care these hospitals provide.

Not only can Mississippi do something about this, but it can do so mostly on the federal government’s tab. But the obstinate Republican leadership, headed by Gov. Phil Bryant, has thumbed its nose at Obamacare’s offer to expand Medicaid to the working poor.

That decision has compounded the economic squeeze on rural hospitals. Here’s why. In the past, these hospitals received federal subsidies to help compensate them for their high percentage of uninsured patients. Those subsidies are being cut and are supposed to be replaced by the Medicaid expansion. States, however, that rejected the expansion, such as Mississippi, aren’t getting the replacement dollars.

Since 2010, two rural hospitals have closed in this state. How many more will have to close before the GOP leadership sees the folly of its decision?

Bryant and his allies in the Legislature have been amply warned of what’s coming. The question is whether they will continue to ignore it.

To put this into perspective: Yokohama Tire received a $130 million in state incentives to build a 500-employee tire plant in West Point. In comparison, the expansion of Medicaid would provide 263,000 low-income Mississippians with health care and only cost the state $18 million in the first year, according to a study by the University Research Center. The positive economic impact of Medicaid expansion would be far greater than a single manufacturing plant in West Point for a lot less money and provide a huge service to our lower income residents yet the Yokohama deal was pushed by the same Republicans, mostly notably Bryant, who are anti-Medicaid expansion.

Tim Kalich
Editor and Publisher
Greenwood Commonwealth