Jackson County supervisors hire consulting firm to look at Singing River Health System

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors on Monday morning voted to negotiate a contract with an independent financial consulting firm to look at the operations of the Singing River Health System.

The company is Raymond James out of Memphis.

Supervisors want the company to look at making sure the health system is financially healthy going forward and sort out why it was allowed to carry $88 million in collected debt in call it operating income for five to seven years.

The health system, the county’s second largest employer, announced the multi-million audit adjustment earlier this year and last month said it would no longer be able to carry the hospitals’ pension plan for employees.

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Pickering wants legislature to keep those convicted of corruption from collecting state pensions.

What do former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis, former Department of Marine Resources Director Bill Walker and former Warren County Circuit Clerk Shelly Ashley-Palmertree have in common?

If you answered corruption convictions, you’d be correct. The rest of the answer is all three are still eligible to collect their state pensions.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering says he wants the Legislature takes on the issue when the session begins in January. He said he’s already talked to members of the state House and Senate about getting a bill passed.

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The Distraction of Contempt

BY: Oswald Chambers

Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us! For we are exceedingly filled with contempt. —Psalm 123:3

What we must beware of is not damage to our belief in God but damage to our Christian disposition or state of mind. “Take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously” (Malachi 2:16). Our state of mind is powerful in its effects. It can be the enemy that penetrates right into our soul and distracts our mind from God. There are certain attitudes we should never dare to indulge. If we do, we will find they have distracted us from faith in God. Until we get back into a quiet mood before Him, our faith is of no value, and our confidence in the flesh and in human ingenuity is what rules our lives.

Beware of “the cares of this world…” (Mark 4:19). They are the very things that produce the wrong attitudes in our soul. It is incredible what enormous power there is in simple things to distract our attention away from God. Refuse to be swamped by “the cares of this world.”

Another thing that distracts us is our passion for vindication. St. Augustine prayed, “O Lord, deliver me from this lust of always vindicating myself.” Such a need for constant vindication destroys our soul’s faith in God. Don’t say, “I must explain myself,” or, “I must get people to understand.” Our Lord never explained anything— He left the misunderstandings or misconceptions of others to correct themselves.

When we discern that other people are not growing spiritually and allow that discernment to turn to criticism, we block our fellowship with God. God never gives us discernment so that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.

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Gov. Bryant announces members of task force to oversee MDOC contracts review.

Gov. Bryant Announces Members of Task Force to Oversee Mississippi Department of Corrections Contracts Review

Governor Phil Bryant has announced the members of the task force to oversee the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) contracts review. On Nov. 6, Gov. Bryant stated all vendor contracts associated with companies listed in the indictment of former MDOC Commissioner Christopher B. Epps would be re-bid. Additionally, all other MDOC contracts will be reviewed to ensure they were both legally procured and in the best interest of the taxpayers.

On Nov. 7, Gov. Bryant issued an executive order creating the task force to oversee the MDOC contracts review and re-bidding process.

“The members of this task force bring a wealth of experience and knowledge in the legal field that will be valuable during the MDOC contracts review process,” Gov. Bryant said. “I thank them for dedicating their time and energy to the task force.”

The co-chairs of the task force will be Andy Taggart, an attorney and former chief of staff to Gov. Kirk Fordice, and Judge Robert Gibbs, an attorney and former Circuit Judge for the Seventh Judicial District of Mississippi.

The three other task force members are:
• Mike Moore: attorney and former Mississippi Attorney General
• Constance Slaughter-Harvey: attorney, former Assistant Secretary of State, and president of the Legacy Foundation
• Bill Crawford: president of The Montgomery Institute and a former member of the Mississippi Legislature

The task force already has begun reviewing contracts and will meet for the first time in early December. All the meetings of the task force will be subject to the State’s Open Meetings Law.

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HARPER: President Obama’s immigration approach is abuse of power.

BY: Congressman Gregg Harper

A significant majority of Americans oppose President Obama’s stubborn, “my way or the highway” approach, and yesterday the president simply did not listen to the American people. He did exactly what the American people said on Election Day they didn’t want.

Our country has a broken immigration system that needs a real solution, not a quick fix. The president’s unilateral action on immigration is not an effective, long term solution to our broken system, and it will set back the American peoples’ goal to move forward with effective an accountable solutions.

Hardworking taxpayers deserve a president that respects the Constitution and consults with the American people to get things done — not one who acts alone when he deems fit.

This begs the question. The President says he has to act because the Congress will not. So why did the President have to act unilaterally if the Democrats had control of both the House and Senate for the first two years of his administration? And why did President Obama wait to grant amnesty after this midterm election? The common denominator to both questions is that President Obama knew the American people opposed it, and he did not want his fellow Democrats to be held accountable at the polls. And does anybody really believe the president’s claim that border is more secure and more illegal immigrants are being deported? Me either!

Make no mistake: Republicans will utilize the many tools afforded to us in the Constitution to bring an end to the President’s unilateral executive action on immigration. The voices of Mississippians are clear: “Work together to deliver commonsense solutions.” That’s what my Republican colleagues and I are committed to do. It is time for the President to stop acting alone, listen to the people, and join us in solving this problem.

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MS Dept. of Wildlife says deer population getting out of hand, more hunters needed to kill more deer.

As Mississippi prepares to open its first gun season of the deer hunt on Saturday, wildlife officials are urging hunters to kill as many deer as possible in attempt to stabilize the population.

“We are not even close to harvesting the limit,” Lann Wilff, deer coordinator of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, told WLOX. “We have to get more people in the woods and shooting more deer.”

The department estimates the state’s deer population between 1.75 and 2 million, up from 1.25 to 1.5 million “a few years ago,” according to WLOX.

Wilf said 30 percent of the deer population needs to harvested annually to stabilize the population, but Mississippi hunters aren’t even halfway to that number. Last year, Mississippi’s 149,046 hunters harvested 263,705 deer, which averages 1.8 deer per hunter. Wilf said the state needs to be harvesting between 600,000 to 650,000 per year.

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MS College Board approves tuition increase.

The state College Board in Mississippi has given its preliminary approval to increasing tuition by an average of 3.2 percent this fall.

The board acted Thursday during a meeting at Alcorn State University in Lorman. The board must vote again later.

Delta State University and Mississippi Valley State University would keep tuition the same for the third year. The other six universities would increase charges from 2.5 to 5 percent.

The largest increases would come at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State, which would raise tuition and fees 5 percent to nearly $7,500 a year. Thursday’s action is preliminary, and the board must vote again later.

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Analyst says MS will be fortunate to recoup 10 percent of $69.4M KiOR loan

Finding a buyer for the idled KiOR biofuels plant at Columbus would be a tough sell, according to Pavel Molchanov, an equity analyst who had covered Pasadena, Texas-based KiOR Inc. until it filed for bankruptcy protection on Nov. 9.

The state will be fortunate to recoup 10 percent to 15 percent of the $69.4 million balance left in a $75 million no-interest loan it made for the plant at Columbus, said Molchanov, who is employed by Raymond James and Associates, which is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The Chapter 11 petition filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware left out the plant, which never produced gasoline or diesel fuel in the quantity and quality needed to make a success of the venture.

Molchanov said the loan is secured by the $218 million plant, “which even on the best of days never functioned particularly well.” It stopped producing fuel in January 2014. At the time, it employed 100, compared with the promise to create 1,000 jobs at several facilities in the state.

The plant may well be sold for scrap, Molchanov said.

“Unfortunately, the state of Mississippi is going to be left high and dry,” he said.

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Jackson County’s court battle with PERS over employees’ accrued leave rages on.

Longtime Jackson County employees, who have a lot at stake as the county fights the Public Employees’ Retirement System over vacation and sick leave policies, learned today that there’s great risk no matter what they decide to do with their accruals.

The county retirement benefit debate cropped up near the end of 2011, and — when combined with the Singing River Health System’s private pension woes — means thousands of Jackson County employees fear how their retirements will look.

PERS and the county are still haggling over the benefits, and an appeal is before the Mississippi Supreme Court.

Essentially, Jackson County argues that its employees are eligible for 480 hours of sick leave and 240 hours of personal leave each year. If it’s not used, it can be rolled over.

For some longtime employees, that has accumulated into thousands of hours of leave, which could be applied to bump up retirement benefits later.

PERS, however, argues that Jackson County’s own policies from 2010 were “vague” and prevented the leave from rolling over and accruing.

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FODEMAN: Arizona’s expansion of Medicaid provides a cautionary lesson for Mississippi.

BY: Dr. Jason Fodeman

When our state of Arizona announced last year that it would participate in “Obamacare’s” Medicaid expansion, the law’s supporters declared a victory for the poor and their health care. Reality hasn’t been so cut-and-dried.

As a physician, I have dealt with Medicaid on a regular basis. In my experience, the program, while well-intentioned, does not live up to its expectations and is not on par with private insurance. Expanding this broken program will only further ingrain its problems into our health-care system.

Medicaid’s flaws ultimately stem from its rigid, one-size-fits-all nature. Far too much of the program is decided by bureaucrats in Washington and not by local leaders at a municipal or state level. Ultimately, this lack of local control undermines Medicaid’s ability to help the poor.

First and foremost, Medicaid’s top-down approach misallocates money and resources. Since it isn’t personalized, the program in general treats every patient the same. This inefficiency drives costs up. States, trying to keep the program affordable, respond by driving reimbursements to doctors down. State governments can also take money away from other priorities such as education, transportation and security.

Most of the time it’s a mix of these two options. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, in Arizona, 32 percent of state expenditures was spent on Medicaid in 2012. This is already significantly above the national average of 23.7 percent; it is also significantly more than the 22.8 percent spent on Medicaid in 2008. Over this same period, spending on elementary and secondary education has decreased from 27.5 to 19 percent of state spending.

At the same time, states are often forced to slash already low Medicaid provider reimbursements. According to health-care policy expert Avik Roy, in Arizona in 2008, Medicaid payments to primary-care physicians were only 78 percent of private rates. As costs increase under the Affordable Care Act, it is very likely that these already low reimbursements will decrease even further.

For doctors, these low reimbursements sometimes don’t even cover the costs — both medical and administrative — that Medicaid patients incur at their office. As a result, along with the administrative hassle of the program, more and more doctors are refusing to participate in the program.

This perverse turn of events — the result of poor policy — ultimately leaves Medicaid patients with substandard health care. With fewer doctors to see them, they often experience lengthy wait times. The longer they wait, the worse their health problems get and the more likely they are to turn to expensive and overcrowded emergency rooms for help.

Multiple studies bear this out. One recent study found Medicaid patients have higher death rates following surgery. With throat cancer, Medicaid patients are 80 percent more likely to have tumors that spread to one lymph node than patients with private insurance.

After heart angioplasty, they are 59 percent more likely to have “major adverse cardiac events” like strokes and heart attacks. Other studies show similarly depressing trends in other medical fields. Health-care policy expert Scott Gottlieb has called Medicaid “worse than no coverage at all.”

This is what Arizona’s Medicaid patients now face. What will really help them is Arizona getting more control over Medicaid. We need the flexibility to work with local and regional resources to meet the local needs of the underinsured and uninsured. Most importantly, Arizona needs the flexibility to tailor benefits to individual beneficiaries.

Ultimately, Medicaid is a program in need of more reform, not more beneficiaries. Yet that’s not what Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion has done.

In Arizona, as elsewhere, expansion will only extend Medicaid’s problems to more people. This is not a victory, especially for the people trapped in this broken program.

Jason Fodeman practices medicine in Tucson, Arizona.

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