The state's notoriously shaky medical facilities and resources plunged into dire condition post-Katrina and Rita, raising serious issues about Louisiana's ability to care for its citizens ' especially individuals and families lacking the financial resources to purchase medication and insurance. The charity hospital system was upended by Katrina's decimation of New Orleans' flagship Charity Hospital; countless medical records were lost in the floods; post-traumatic stress disorder plagues thousands of Louisiana citizens; suicide rates have gone up alarmingly; and hospitals face a severe personnel shortage.
And like much of the rebuilding process, the private sector isn't waiting around for a magic elixir. A consortium of private groups is helping pour approximately $2 million over the next year into the Public Affairs Research Council to fund a comprehensive health care study and research position. Their work's already begun, with a lead gift of $200,000 from the Franciscan Missionaries enabling PAR to tap David Hood, former secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, as the organization's senior health care policy analyst.
The first briefing from the long-term study was recently issued, and school associations, business lobbyists and industry groups are backing PAR's recommendations. Yet others seem hell-bent on ignoring the effort. The Legislature has yet to take an interest in the undertaking, says PAR President Jim Brandt, whose nonprofit agency monitors state government.
"We have had no response from lawmakers, which is unfortunate," Brandt says. "They aren't interested in talking about this. We thought we would have heard something by now."
Gov. Kathleen Blanco and other state officials hosted the Governor's Healthcare Summit two years ago to garner ideas, one of which was the formation of the Governor's Healthcare Forum. As a result, regional hearings have been held all over the state ' but tangible results are hard to find.
Meanwhile, PAR's initial findings reveal a dysfunctional structure ripe for reform. On a national level, Louisiana is a high-spending state, but in its study, PAR could not locate a single health care area where the money was being used efficiently. And more times than not, sacrifices were made on the backs of patients.
"Louisiana's health care system is organized to deliver inefficient institutional care at the expense of primary and preventive care," Brandt says. "Spending priorities in the health budget are focused on institutions and providers, rather than patients." The study concludes that Louisiana lacks the infrastructure to provide patients ' especially the uninsured population ' with basic health care services. To reverse that trend, PAR recommends the following immediate actions:
â?¢ Transfer certain emergency room visits to a doctor's office or clinic, saving around $300 per case. If one-half of all non-emergency ER visits were diverted in this fashion, the state would save $40 million annually.
â?¢ Establish an initial investment of $50 million in state or federal grant money to help develop new health centers and clinics around the state, specifically in the hurricane-ravaged areas.
â?¢ To assist with the extraordinary expenses related to treating Medicaid patients, the state should bankroll $36 million over three years to phase in a major Medicaid fee increase for primary care physicians and other doctors. The bottom-line result could be more people seeing more doctors.
â?¢ Restore medical care to rural parishes and other underserved areas by providing incentives for primary care physicians to practice in those locations. This would require an initial investment of $25 million in state or federal grant money.
â?¢ Relax practice requirements for non-physician clinicians or mid-level practitioners to enable them to practice independently in some cases.
â?¢ Provide no-interest loans to physicians in the Greater New Orleans region to assist them in re-establishing their medical practices.
They're lofty goals with a hefty price tag, but they've caught the attention of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, one of the state's most influential lobbying organizations. In particular, CEO Dan Juneau notes that the state's archaic Charity Hospital delivery system model was experiencing a steep decline in patients in the years leading up to the storms. At the same time, private hospitals were seeing a large influx of uninsured patients streaming into their emergency rooms for basic care.
"Our illogical system of government-focused healthcare has given strong indications of an impending disaster for a long time," Juneau says. "PAR makes a strong case that the time to act is now ' and the reforms needed are very apparent."
A recommendation to double the enrollment in school-based health centers also earned praise from the Louisiana Assembly on School-Based Health Care. The group recently urged the state to consider PAR's $10 million recommendation to develop more school-based health centers. "The PAR Report gets it exactly right in terms of school-based health," says Angie Ruiz, LASBHC president. "School-based health is a cost effective way to deliver quality health care to youth. They're a captured audience at a school, so they are more likely to actually get the physical or come in for the immunizations they need."
PAR's ongoing capital campaign will also fund other health care briefings in the coming year, addressing issues such as providing for the uninsured; long-term care for the elderly and disabled; and state Medicaid spending. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation, Community Foundation of Shreveport-Bossier, Ella West Freeman Foundation, Keller Family Foundation and the RosaMary Foundation have all contributed to PAR's campaign.
Another eight to 10 briefings are planned, with the second one arriving later this month. Brandt can't predict beyond that, as the effort is dependent on outside funding. But the results have already proven more beneficial than waiting on the results of another government forum.
"That's probably why we have been able to make an impact and bring something to the discussion immediately," he says.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.
Jim Bernhard, who engineered the sale of The Shaw Group for $3 billion, recently has told several people involved in Democratic politics that he intends to run for governor in 2015.
A New Orleans levee board wants to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for decades of damage to our state’s coastline, but the Legislature may be poised to put the kibosh on the suit.
New standards curb elective induction
CVS stops tobacco sales
If an Acadia Parish fiddler misses a note while swatting a fly, will a St. Martinville accordionist learn “Ma ‘Tite Fille”?
(It's good, it's bad and it's just crazy)