BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Families of the terminally ill and health care workers planned a candlelight vigil Wednesday to protest Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to shutter the state's Medicaid hospice program in February.
Supporters of the program, which provides at-home, end-of-life care for people who can't afford private insurance coverage, say the cut will make Louisiana one of only two states to not pay for hospice care through its Medicaid program.
Jindal made a series of budget reductions in mid-December to help close a nearly $166 million deficit in the current fiscal year that ends June 30, the fifth consecutive year the governor's slashed spending to rebalance the budget because of a midyear gap.
In the latest group of cuts, the hospice decision drew the strongest complaints from lawmakers, with senators pushing the Jindal administration to find another way to trim spending, rather than ending the assistance for people on their death beds.
Despite the complaints and requests from lawmakers, the Department of Health and Hospitals is continuing with its plan to close the program to new adult recipients on Feb. 1. Cutting the program is estimated to save about $1.1 million in state funding this year and $3.1 million in state funding for the 2013-14 budget year, according to DHH.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee is considering whether to try to stop the administration's planned cut, with a committee meeting scheduled next week to review the emergency rule that would end reimbursement for the services.
The Jindal administration has said when cuts are required to the Medicaid program, the state only has a few optional benefits that can be reduced that aren't required by the federal government for participation in the shared federal/state program. Hospice is an optional program the health department said has been available since 2002.
"When looking at optional Medicaid programs for elimination and setting priorities, the department determined it was more critical to continue pharmacy benefits for adults, hemodialysis and group homes for people with development disabilities," DHH said in a statement about the hospice cut.
DHH Undersecretary Jerry Phillips has said the hospice cut doesn't affect anyone currently receiving services.
After the program ends, Phillips said people could seek those services through Medicare and through clergy and nonprofit groups, and he said Medicaid recipients still will have access to medication to relieve pain, through the pharmacy program.
The Alliance for the Advancement of End-of-Life Care, a New Orleans-based nonprofit that is fighting the hospice cut, said providing the care at home through a hospice program costs the state less than through hospitals or emergency rooms.
More than 5,800 people received hospice services through Louisiana's Medicaid program in the last budget year, according to the health department. Many of those, however, were eligible to receive the end-of-life care through Medicare. About 1,400 received the services in their homes and wouldn't have been eligible through Medicare.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.