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.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
Corporations spending in state elections; Kenny G and Hong Kong; states resist gay marriage and more national and international news for Thursday, October 23, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.