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.
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.