Greenwood Commonwealth. January 28, 2023.
Editorial: A Unanimous Medicaid Vote
It may not change anything, but Mississippi House Republicans who are dead-set against any form of Medicaid expansion now have a bit of cover if they wish to reconsider.
As Mississippi Today has recently reported, the state’s 11-member Medical Care Advisory Committee recommended unanimously last October that the Legislature permanently extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers to 12 months after giving birth.
Because of the public health emergency declaration for COVID-19, low-income mothers presently have this extended coverage, but unless the Legislature acts, it will be rolled back to 60 days once the federal declaration is lifted.
The members of the advisory committee were appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker, so the panel surely was attentive to the opinions of the three elected officials.
The committee chairman, Dr. David Reeves, a Gulf Coast physician, wrote a letter to state leaders this month about the unanimous vote. He said pediatric and neonatal specialists made a presentation about Medicaid to the committee at its October meeting.
Reeves’ letter added, “We feel this extension of coverage will be beneficial to both our mothers and babies and supports the pledge we have made to Mississippi’s women and children with the recent Supreme Court decision upholding Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.”
That sentence from Reeves’ letter sets aside all the politics of Medicaid expansion. It is a reminder of what many anti-abortion Mississippi leaders said they would do after Roe v. Wade got overturned — provide better care for mothers and babies. One easy way to do that is to permanently extend maternal Medicaid coverage for 12 months after birth.
Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann was already on board before the advisory committee’s vote. Last year, members of both parties in the Senate, which the lieutenant governor leads, passed a bill to extend Medicaid for mothers. But the bill died in the House when Speaker Philip Gunn blocked it from a vote.
The humor of the situation is that Gunn has said he’s waiting on the state Division of Medicaid to take a position on extending coverage after birth. But a deputy administrator said in December the agency has no recommendation on the issue. So while a medical advisory committee was unanimous, the people who actually run Medicaid won’t make the call.
Here are some relevant figures, as reported by Mississippi Today, that explain why more infants and birth mothers need help:
- Mississippi’s pregnancy-related maternal mortality ratio is 33.2 deaths per 100,000 live births, nearly double the national average of 17.3 deaths.
- Mississippi has the nation’s highest infant mortality rate, the highest birth rate before reaching the full term of 38 weeks and the lowest birthweight.
- One of every seven babies born in Mississippi is delivered before reaching full term.
Health experts have told lawmakers that extending postpartum Medicaid would cost the state about $7 million per year. That’s a significant expense, but the question is whether it would improve the health of women who just gave birth. The doctors who spoke to the Medical Care Advisory Committee three months ago say yes.
Extending Medicaid for mothers would not completely solve these statistical problems. It’s clear that too many pregnant women do not get proper prenatal care, and this needs to change. But it should also be clear that being pro-life does not end when a baby is born. More infants and their mothers need medical assistance, and Mississippi should recognize this.
Columbus Dispatch. January 31, 2023.
Editorial: Bravo to exposure of Girl Scouts to chemical engineering
Mention Girl Scouts and people generally think cookies. But Boston Rose sees Girl Scouts and thinks of tomorrow’s chemical engineers.
Rose, a senior Chemical Engineer student at Mississippi State, along with other students from MSU’s chapter of American Institute of Chemical Engineers, hosted 100 Girl Scouts from troops throughout Mississippi and Tennessee to expose them to the field and inform them of careers in chemical engineering. Last year, 40 Girl Scouts attended the one-day event, which means interest in the event is growing.
According to data from American Association of University Women, women make up more than half the population but hold only 28% of jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in college. The gender gaps are particularly high in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2022 women in Mississippi earned $9,755 less than their male counterparts. Data show the majority of the gap between men and women’s wages cannot be explained through measurable differences between workers, such as age, education, industry or work hours. Of the portion of the wage gap that can be explained, by far the biggest factor is the types of jobs that women are more likely to have than men.
There is no plausible reason for this, not two decades into the 21st Century. The idea of “women’s work” and “men’s jobs” should be a relic of times passed.
There is no reason that only 19% of software developers are women, no reason that just 7.8% of aerospace engineers are women or that, as Rose knows, just 25.9% of chemical engineers are women.
So the stubborn reality of the gender wage gap may not be so much a matter of perception than exposure.
That is why we applaud Rose and her fellow students for exposing the Girl Scouts to chemical engineering through fun hands-on experiments. We also applaud the Girl Scout troops that attended.
Today’s Girl Scouts, with badge programs offered in a wide variety of fields, may not be your mother’s Girl Scouts. But they could be your great-grandmother’s Girl Scouts. When the first Girl Scouts troops were formed, science was in its DNA. The very first badges, in 1913, included Naturalist, Electrician, and Health. The curriculum prepared girls for service to the country, not primarily to a husband and children.
In exposing girls to STEM fields at an early age, the Girl Scouts is getting back to its roots.
Some of us have personal knowledge of a time when our daughters’ full potential was limited simply because they were girls.
Let’s hope future generations of our daughters will know those views only as an unfortunate, inexplicable part of history.
Vicksburg Post. January 27, 2023.
Editorial: Cannabis sales won’t fix Mississippi’s drug problem
With the first medical cannabis sales taking place in Mississippi this week, it seems like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for those who need a medically approved solution to what ails them.
And there’s no doubt about it: for people who have expended other options or don’t want traditional medicine, medical cannabis can be a life-changing treatment. Not only that, but the millions in revenue the plant is anticipated to bring to Mississippi’s towns are vital to the state’s economic growth.
But here’s the rub: The state’s mechanisms for entering the medical cannabis industry make it almost impossible for the average Joe to get involved.
In order to open a dispensary in Mississippi, business owners must be able to pay about $65,000 to the state up-front. There is a $40,000 first-year license fee paid to the state Department of Revenue that includes a $15,000 non-refundable application fee, which means an applicant will not get that money back if they don’t get a license. The subsequent license fee is $25,000 per year.
That’s a pretty hefty amount for anyone to have on hand. In effect, it severely limits both the amount and type of people who could be successful in the medical cannabis industry in Mississippi.
For example, your average neighborhood pot dealer is likely already operating a successful enterprise — but coming up with $65,000 just to get off the ground, and then finding a storefront and employees and a supplier for the actual product puts the “little guy” at a disadvantage.
As a state with one of the highest incarceration rates and a prison that only recently emerged from a Justice Department probe, one would think lawmakers would make it easier for the small-scale indica entrepreneurs, as it were, to go legit and make money the legal way.
Instead, what’s happened in many cases is out-of-state cannabis professionals coming to Mississippi, taking advantage of the fledgling industry here and making a buck (or a few thousand).
It’s this sort of gatekeeping that makes Mississippi’s transition to legal medical cannabis particularly troubling. At the rate things are going now, from a legislative standpoint, it doesn’t appear that legalizing cannabis for medical use is going to make a dent in the number of people incarcerated for marijuana-related crimes.
Studies do indicate that legalized medical cannabis reduces the number of possession arrests, but it doesn’t make a difference in the number of people arrested for possession with intent to distribute or trafficking.
Mississippi marijuana distribution laws dictate that persons with 250 to 500 grams of marijuana with an intent to distribute face the same three to 10 years of incarceration and fines of up to $15,000 on conviction. The Mississippi Act also prescribes a penalty of five to 10 years of jail time with a maximum fine of $20,000 for 500 grams to one kilogram of marijuana possessed with the intent to distribute, according to mississippistatecannabis.org.
The penalty only goes up from there, with trafficking convictions being an automatic felony and a mandatory jail term of 10 years but not more than 40 years. In addition, the court may impose fines between $5,000 and $1 million.
For the majority of cases, it stands to reason that it’s cheaper and more cost-effective to sell marijuana on the street than it is to do so within the confines of state law.
All this begs the question: If it was easier to “go legit” in Mississippi, would we see fewer people incarcerated for a plant the state is now profiting from?