New Health Care Plans Targets All Citizens

The 20 key points in the 20-20 Perfect the Vision plan touch on all aspects of health care. The legislature must approve the proposal and find ways to fund it over the next 18 years.

"Health care, when it works, it pays for itself because to use preventive health care in opposition to emergent care you're paying people to stay healthy and it costs less on the general fund," Sean Courtney of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program said.

Courtney says Mississippi's health care needs keep growing even if people can't pay for it.

"Over 20 percent of the people in Mississippi have no access to health care, and by that I mean they have no health insurance and they can depend on the services that are there for people with no insurance," Courtney said. "But even on top of that 500,000 people there are several hundred thousand more that are under-insured."

That describes 60 percent of the patients at Biloxi's Coastal Family Health Center. The center's executive director says many people who need medical help don't get it.

"They do without or walk in when they're extremely ill is what usually happens and go to the ER, and then they're referred back to us from the E.R.," health center director Joe Dawsey said.

Dawsey said adopting a comprehensive plan that stresses preventive medicine would break that cycle.

"Right now death from heart disease, Mississippi's number one and most any disease you can think of Mississippi's number one. If we're ever going to address it we're going to have to do it with preventive programs rather than treating the illness in the emergency room or what have you."

Though the 20-20 program won't be cheap, sponsors in the long run a healthier population will save money. Sponsors of the plan can't put a final price tag on it yet. They say the numbers will change over the years as matching funds become available from the federal government.

Sean Courtney of the Health Advocacy Group says state lawmakers struggling to find money to bail out the Medicaid program this year, and he's not sure they can find money to begin the new health care plan too.