Last Modified: Friday, August 17, 2012 9:37 PM
That Medicaid crisis Louisiana is facing has been building for years.
It just did not feel like a crisis when federal money was rolling in.
Louisiana has been benefiting from additional healthcare funds in the wake of the catastrophic hurricanes of 2005. We needed that money.
Now Louisiana is absorbing an $860 million Medicaid funding hit from the feds, which cannot afford to help Louisiana at the same clip. As part of the state’s reaction to that grim news, the LSU hospitals, which serve the state’s poor, are sustaining some $329 million in cuts, further reduced to $50 million after some fancy financial footwork.
The problem landed at our local doorstep when W.O. Moss, which serves the poor in Calcasieu Parish, faced an imminent $11 million shortfall as the federal crisis rolled downhill. That money is hard to replace, especially on short notice. Local lawmakers say the sky is not falling, but there sure are dark clouds in the not-so-distant yonder.
W.O. Moss is important to this area. It serves the poor and hard-pressed, and we have plenty of them. The state has more than a million people on Medicaid, which pays for health care for those who cannot pay their own way. Some 47,000 of those people live in this parish, and Moss has taken care of many of them.
If you have no sympathy for them, if you think the poor create their own problems, consider this: 46,000 children in our region are on Medicaid, 29,000 in Calcasieu. Children cannot be blamed for the poverty in which they live.
Some area lawmakers believe services will continue, that things are not as bad as they seem. We would love to believe that. But if the state of Louisiana, the LSU health system and Moss can all survive well intact despite the tough financial setbacks, then did they ever really need the money that was intended for us? The poor must be served. Can that happen?
State Treasurer John N. Kennedy has been promoting a short list of steps he says will solve the Medicaid problem. We doubt those measures will solve all of Medicaid’s problem, but they might help. Among imminent, plausible steps we might consider are charging modest ($2-$10) co-pays for service; prohibiting Medicaid payments for nonemergency visits to the emergency room; reviewing the use of Medicaid for hospital stays; reducing the size of Charity Hospital in New Orleans.
We’d like to hear more from our governor, too. He earned his way into high government office by his knowledge of healthcare policy. Now, with the crisis worsening at home, he is on the road, campaigning nationally. If he wants to make an impact, he can make one here.
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, Dennis Spears, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.