Last Modified: Thursday, April 18, 2013 3:22 PM
BATON ROUGE (AP) — Gov. Bobby Jindal said Thursday he won't seek legislative approval of his administration's LSU hospital privatization agreements, though both the House and Senate have voted that they want such decision-making authority.
Jindal said he believes the legislative resolutions that have received support requiring budget committee backing of the lease agreements don't carry the force of law.
He said lawmakers would need to change state statute to get such approval authority, citing an attorney general's opinion, issued before the resolutions were filed, that said the legislative backing isn't required under current law.
"There is an existing statute that specifically tells us how to proceed, and we'll certainly comply with the law," Jindal said.
The Republican governor is pushing to privatize all but one of the university-run hospitals that care for the poor and uninsured around the state and train many medical students.
This week, the Senate adopted a resolution by Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, that includes a requirement that the hospital deals get approval from the Senate Finance Committee.
"I think the majority of senators believe it now requires Senate committee approval," Murray said. "This is a really big issue, and a majority of those members think it should require committee approval, and that's what the resolution seeks to do."
Meanwhile, the House agreed to a joint resolution by Rep. Jared Brossett, D-New Orleans, — which also needs backing from the Senate — that broadens that requirement to direct the LSU Board of Supervisors to submit the lease arrangements to the joint House and Senate budget committee for approval before they could begin.
The resolutions have received broad, bipartisan support in the House and Senate.
Lawmakers who supported the resolutions said they believe the Jindal administration must follow the approval requirements outlined in the legislation. It's unclear, however, whether lawmakers will try to enforce the approval authority they are seeking to gain through the House and Senate resolutions.
The privatization effort largely came after Louisiana received a steep cut in its federal Medicaid financing rate. Jindal levied most of the cut on the LSU public hospital system, rather than on private health care providers in the Medicaid program.
Lawmakers have raised concerns about the arrangements, saying they worried the rapid push for privatization could jeopardize care for the uninsured and damage medical training programs.
Leases for most hospitals are under negotiation, with final agreements approved by the LSU governing board only for its hospitals in New Orleans and Lafayette. Those are scheduled to be presented to the legislative budget committees next week for discussion — but not approval, according to the governor.
Jindal attributes the legislative approval efforts to people trying to slow privatization efforts, which he said would improve services and education programs. He said if lawmakers want to delay, they need to offer a substitute plan to shrink hospital spending.
"What we've not heard from anybody that wants to slow down this process is what their alternative solution would be to continue these services, to enhance these services, to reduce spending for Louisiana's taxpayers," the governor said.