A non-profit that receives most of its money from taxpayer funds will receive an earmark in the state’s Medicaid appropriation for the fifth year in a row.
The Delta Health Alliance is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit based in Stoneville and manages 52 education and healthcare programs in the impoverished Mississippi Delta.
The money is being allocated for the Mississippi Delta Medicaid Population Health Demonstration Project, which is intended to use information technology in partnership with the Cerner Corporation to reduce Type II diabetes or pre-term births in the impoverished 10-county Delta region.
In this year’s Medicaid appropriation that was already signed into law by Gov. Tate Reeves, the non-profit will receive $1 million after receiving more than $4.1 million in last year’s bill. As of July 31, the non-profit will have received $17.22 million from taxpayers to fund the project.
That represents a miniscule percentage (1.91 percent) of the nearly $899 million that Mississippi taxpayers will spend as the state’s share of the Medicaid budget.
The funds will be transferred before July 31 and the DHA will have to make a progress report to lawmakers before December 31. The state’s chief legislative watchdog, the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, will conduct an evaluation by December 1, 2023 and every three years after to examine the services provided by the DHA.
Drew Synder, the executive director of the state Division of Medicaid, told the Northside Sun that he hadn’t written another letter to lawmakers about the program. The state Division of Medicaid recommended in its fiscal 2022 budget request that lawmakers not appropriate $4.16 million that was appropriated in fiscal 2021.
Agencies can ask lawmakers in budget requests not to earmark funds for certain projects, but the ultimate decision is up to appropriators.
In 2018, Snyder wrote a letter to lawmakers that said he’d be unable to endorse the earmark for the project as a cost-effective use of taxpayer funds. He also spoke favorably about some of the people involved and the project’s concept. In the letter, he also said the project at the time served only a few hundred beneficiaries and a similar project could be led by the managed care companies at a 76 percent federal match.
DHA received $3.95 million in the fiscal 2018 in the Medicaid appropriation bill for the project, with $2.88 million to continue the program and $1.07 million to draw matching funds from federal sources. The fiscal 2019 appropriations bill repeated those amounts the next year.
In fiscal 2020, lawmakers appropriated $4.161 million for the DHA for the program and the same amount in fiscal 2021’s appropriation.
The DHA was created in 2001 as a collaboration by Mississippi’s five public universities led by the late U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran to meet the healthcare and educational needs of the 18 counties in the Mississippi Delta region and funded by earmarks from the former chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
According to its most recent filing from 2019 with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, DHA received $23 million in revenue, with nearly $18.2 million originating from government grants (79 percent).
In the 2018 filing, government grants ($14.3 million) represented 81.25 percent of the non-profit’s $17.6 million in revenues.