JACKSON • Mississippi lawmakers returned to the Capitol on Tuesday to discuss how the state should spend more than a billion dollars in federal coronavirus relief funds.

The Senate’s Public Health and Welfare Committee convened a hearing and heard testimony from several healthcare leaders about how much financial assistance their industry needs.

“Our goal, it sounds odd to say this, but we have a very large amount of money that’s available to us,” Public Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said. “Our goal is to get that money to where it can do the most good as quickly as possible.”

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, the vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine for the University of Mississippi Medical Center, told legislators that the medical center projects that it will lose $100 million through the end of September and $150 million through the end of December.

“That is a tremendous negative impact as we look around the country and we talk to other academic medical centers and see the information they’re putting out publicly,” she said.

Hospitals across the state have reported decreases in revenue as fewer people are seeking elective treatment and surgeries, following a time in which state government halted these procedures altogether.

Woodward told lawmakers that the healthcare center has received some federal funds, but she is requesting more funds from state government to help offset the expenses incurred from the virus.

State Sen. Chad McMahan, R-Guntown, told the Daily Journal the medical center was asking for around $150 million from the Legislature. McMahan said he wants the medical center to receive its fair share of funds, but he does not believe it should receive the full amount for which it’s asking.

“Our private sector hospitals, they have to look for cost saving measures to stay in business,” McMahan said. “UMMC can’t go out of business. They’re owned by the University of Mississippi and funded by taxpayers.”

Tim Moore, the CEO of the Mississippi Hospital Association, also said that hospitals in the state are suffering hardship and have undertaken a significant financial hit from the virus.

“We can easily say that the state of Mississippi in healthcare struggles at best,” Moore said.

Moore asked the committee to reimburse hospitals for expenses related to the virus and not to reimburse hospitals for lost revenue.

Bryan said the committee would take the presentations from the healthcare leaders under advisement. The committee did not discuss or take up any legislation at the hearing.

taylor.vance@journalinc.com

Twitter: @taylor_vance28

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