The executive director of Mississippi’s Medicaid program recommended to legislators that they should end state funding for a demonstration project run by the Delta Health Alliance.

Drew Synder, the executive director of the state Division of Medicaid, said in a December 28 letter to the legislature that that he’d “remain unable to endorse the (Mississippi Delta Medicaid Population Health Demonstration) project in its existing form as a cost-effective use of taxpayer dollars” despite speaking favorably about some of the people involved and the overall concept.

The Delta Health Alliance is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that implements healthcare and education programs in the impoverished Delta region. It receives most of its money from taxpayers in the form of federal and state grants.

The project is supposed to use information technology to help providers reduce preterm births and conditions that can lead to type II diabetes among the Medicaid population in a 10-county area in the Delta.

Legislators ignored Synder’s advice and appropriated $4,161,095 for the project in Medicaid Division’s appropriation bill that was signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant and goes into effect on July 1. 

That’s on top of more than $10.6 million that’s been appropriated over the last four years.

  • The appropriation bill for 2015 lists the demonstration project as one to receive state funds, but doesn’t specify how much will be spent on it. 
  • In 2016, the appropriation bill also didn’t specify the amount directed to the project, but also included $500,000 for a “patient-centered medical model home” in Leland, where the DHA is headquartered. The DHA’s tax form lists $1,376,231 in spending on the program for that year.
  • The 2017 appropriation bill didn’t specify the amount for the project and included a $500,000 appropriation for the medical model home in Leland.
  • The 2018 appropriations bill had $3,945,889 allocated to the project, with $2,879,051 to continue the existing program and $1,066,838 for the purpose of drawing matching federal funds. The bill also included another $500,000 for the medical model home. 

According to an examination of records on the secretary of state’s website and DHA’s own tax forms, the organization hasn’t spent any money on lobbying the Legislature. State Rep. Willie Bailey (D-Greenville) is on the DHA board of directors.

According to the letter, the project has served only a few hundred beneficiaries and could be led by the managed care companies at a 76 percent federal match. He also said the project partially overlaps with an existing personal healthcare monitoring report program at the state Department of Health that’s funded already by DOM. 

The letter also says that the project gives $80,000 per month to a health care information technology subcontractor for a predictive algorithm tool that hasn’t been utilized to find high-risk pregnant women for the study.

The DHA was created in 2001 as a collaboration by the five public universities led by former 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.

In 2017, DHA had $18,806,915 in revenue, primarily from federal and state funds and the group spent $19,340,337 for a deficit of $533,422. Among the $14,275,706 in government grants received by the organization in 2017 include:

  • $5,642,945 in various grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • $3,284,675 from the U.S. Department of Education for the Indianola Promise Community.
  • $3,114,998 from the Sunflower Childcare Coalition for early Headstart. 

Program services accounted for $14,391,625 of those expenditures.