Legislation aimed at expanding medical care and increasing the number of health care jobs in Mississippi, House Bill 1537, passed the Senate unanimously and now heads to Gov. Bryant for approval.
"I commend the members of Legislature, Speaker Gunn and Lt. Gov. Reeves for their leadership in passing the Health Care Industry Zone Act, a very important component of my Mississippi Works Agenda," Gov. Phil Bryant said. "This bill will help foster a positive environment for development in the health care industry while making sure Mississippians have the proper access to cutting edge medical care. As I have said before, health care is an industry of necessity. Our population is aging, so we know that more Mississippians will have the need for increased health services. We also know that the health care industry creates good paying jobs that Mississippians need. I look forward to signing this monumental piece of legislation."
The health care zone legislation provides incentives for health-care-related businesses to create new full time jobs in areas where hospitals exist.
Jim Barksdale, executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority, said, "The creation of Health Care Zones is a very significant step for all of Mississippi on two important levels. It helps us increase the quality of care available to both Mississippians and patients in other states who might come to Mississippi seeking cutting edge health services, and the expansion of the health care industry provides a strong, stable boost to the economy."
Blake Wilson, president of the Mississippi Economic Council, believes the measure will greatly enhance Mississippi's ability to expand its medical industry.
"The health care zones legislation marks a first and important step down "Opportunity Road' for Mississippi, beginning implementation of one of the nine priority goals of Blueprint Mississippi," Wilson said. "The legislation gives us a running start to put Mississippi in the place of greatest opportunity by building on our already solid medical foundations around the state and maximizing their potential for growth."
Mississippi State Medical Association president Dr. Thomas E. Joiner said, "House Bill 1537 is friendly to Mississippi patients on two levels; it seeks to increase access to care in the state and also seeks to increase economic development opportunities and jobs for our citizens. Mississippi physicians support the bill and appreciate the Legislature's recognition that our industry is doubly advantageous to Mississippi by providing quality care and by creating jobs. We look forward to the establishment of productive and effective health care zones throughout the state, which will allow increased numbers of physicians to serve more Mississippians."
Duane O'Neill, president of Greater Jackson Partnership, said, "Passage of the health care zones legislation is a major achievement for all Mississippians. By embracing health care as a leading industry sector, we will be in position to realize the benefits of improving our quality of life, as well as continuing to grow our economy."
Joe Higgins Jr., CEO of Columbus Lowndes Development Link, said, "The passage of House Bill 1537 will better place Mississippi to compete for and win investments in the healthcare industry. For rural areas such as the Golden Triangle this is a huge step forward. For governor Bryant and all those that had the vision and leadership to get such a law passed, a big thank you."
Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center said, "Governor Bryant's medical zone legislation shows visionary thinking and action by our elected state leadership. This creative approach to economic development that focuses on health care as a target industry promises more high-paying jobs and more accessible health services for our state's citizens. As Mississippi's economy gets stronger, we believe health care will be among the industries leading the way."