Last Modified: Saturday, October 13, 2012 8:47 PM
Federal cuts to funds Louisiana receives to support its Medicaid program have caused Richter-scale shock waves through the state’s public hospital system.
The loss of $860 million has caused Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration to make dramatic cuts in services and staffing in the public hospitals, including W.O. Moss Regional Medical Center, which serves the poor and uninsured here in Southwest Louisiana.
State Treasurer John Kennedy said while the funding reduction will force some needed reforms in the system, ‘‘we need to be very careful for all hospitals.’’
‘‘They are not only providers of health care,’’ he said. ‘‘They are providers of jobs. They are part of the fabric of a community.’’
The Medicaid program in Louisiana costs between $7.5 billion and $8 billion, according to Kennedy, about one-third of the entire state budget. The program covers 1.3 million state residents.
In a talk to a Houma civic club earlier this month, Kennedy touted ways to cut costs:
• Require patients needing medical care in emergency cases to co-pay between $2 and $10 depending on the treatment.
• Prohibit the use of Medicaid for non-emergency or serious medical treatment. He said a Medicaid patient recently went to an emergency room in the state because the tip of her fingernail had broken. Kennedy said the doctor referred the person to a nail salon.
• Allow the state to purchase private insurance offered by employers for low-income workers when it proves less expensive than Medicaid.
• Include the most effective drugs at the lowest price on the state’s medical preferred pharmaceutical list.
• Reduce the size of the $1.1 billion charity hospital currently under construction in New Orleans.
• Place the 10 charity hospital systems on an inventory control system that provides supplies on an as-needed basis.
The state treasurer said the state should also upgrade its computer system and sell the uncollectable portion of its $1.3 billion in accounts receivable and apply that money and the savings from the computer upgrade to help generate additional funds for Medicaid and the public hospitals.
Kennedy said he also opposes the closing of the Southeast Louisiana Mental Hospital in Mandeville, saying treatment of patients there is more cost effective than if they are out on the street or seeking medical help in hospitals’ emergency rooms.
As always, Kennedy doesn’t mind speaking his mind and his remedies are fact-based and well thought out.
State lawmakers and the Jindal administration would be wise to heed his advice.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.