Acadiana’s legislative delegation is in Baton Rouge this morning to learn more about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s new initiative to reform the way health care is delivered to the state’s citizenry. It’s called “Louisiana Health First,” and the full House gets its first crack at asking questions about it today during the special briefing. Local lawmakers, however, will probably do more listening than anything else.

That’s because the new initiative is focusing first on the regions with the greatest needs, which means the core parishes of Acadiana aren’t exactly in the picture. But Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine said in an interview that the pilot program’s reach could grow depending on its future outcomes, but a spotlight must immediately be placed on underserved areas like New Orleans and Lake Charles.

In short, it’s in no way a slight to the Acadiana region, he says. "The regions are proposed based on the number of Medicaid beneficiaries that live in those regions and the number and breadth of providers available in those regions,” Levine adds.

Levine also says it’s important to note that elements of the new DHH proposal that’s supported by the governor will benefit all areas of the state, so the Lafayette area can look forward to a trickledown effect in coming years. Additionally, as part of the new plan, DHH will be implementing disease management initiatives in all regions of the state. “The initial locations are just that – initial locations,” Levine says. “As DHH is able to demonstrate the coordinated care network program's effectiveness, it would then recommend expansion to other parts of the state."

The initiative, launched last month, focuses on expanding health insurance coverage for Louisiana’s working poor. It also seeks to offer Medicaid consumers choices on insurance coverage, rather than sticking them in a government-imposed, one-size-fits-all system.

In a prepared statement, Jindal also said the program will address the human element of health care by working to reduce fraud, decreasing system abuse and ensuring that providers are more involved in patient care. From an administrative side, the initiative’s goals include making the new charity hospital in New Orleans a competitive academic institution, rewarding providers for better health outcomes and increasing transparency in the Medicaid system by making performance measures available on the Internet. “We know the statistics, but behind these statistics there are real people,” Jindal says. “Louisiana is last in health care outcomes, we have far too many people with no health insurance at all and this system will not improve on its own.”

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