Filed Under:  News, Politics

Louisiana health care cuts called a “disaster”

4th September 2012   ·   0 Comments

By J. Kojo Livingston
Contributing Writer

Last week Dr. Fred Cerise, the longtime head of Louisiana’s public hospital system was replaced by Gov. Piyush “Bobby” Jindal because of their differences about the future of the safety-net hospital system run by LSU.

State Representative Roy Burrell called the move “…a clear shot across the bow. It says that ‘you better wake up, Louisiana.” People are genuinely concerned about the direction that health care has taken in the state. North Louisiana leaders are starting to speak out about the situation, which some are calling a crisis.

Senator Greg Tarver says that we don’t have to worry about LSU Medical Center in Shreveport shutting down. “LSU Shreveport is not part of the system. We are getting ready to go to Maryland right now to see what we can work out to have a prototype to keep Lsu controlled here. We don’t want to sell LSU. We want LSU to stay exactly like it is in Shreveport, La.”

As for hospital closures Tarver says, “No one can close down a hospital except the legislature and we have not approved of any place being closed down. I think this is going to linger on until we get back to Baton Rouge in April of next year. The big cut came from the federal government $859 million. It was a federal cut in the Medicaid approved by Congress with those Republican representatives including Vitter. Vitter was one of those pushing this cut. Just like Fleming. Vitter and Fleming don’t care about poor people. They’re only concerned about the rich folks.”

Willie Bradford is directs Willis Knighton’s Neighborhealth network of clinics and fitness centers. He is also sounding the alarm, “The long term detriment from these cuts and changes will have a great impact on the Black community. Black people don’t seek a doctor for preventive care. They wait until there is nothing else they can do then they come to the doctor. This means that we have these chronic illnesses. Care is not going to be readily available for them. It’s going to have a great effect on the long term effects on health and life.”

Bradford says the system has changed for the worse, right under the noses of the public, “Medicad has been redistributed. Starting in the spring, Louisiana had their own in-house Medicaid services. They have since outsourced Medicaid patients to various insurance entities. They say that they can save money by outsourcing to five different areas. A lot of Medicaid patients did not know that. They didn’t know that there was a shift in how thy get services. Now they are about to find out who they been linked to. You can’t just go to a doctor anymore. It’s like private insurance; you’ve got to have a primary care doctor. They had an opportunity through bailouts and other forms of communication to engage a doctor, you are talking about a low sophisticated level of patient on Medicaid. So 80% did not go out and seek a doctor so now they are being auto-assigned various doctors. If they go to a doctor who is not their doctor, they can’t see them. That entire system is in shambles. It’s being worked out but many will have to use the emergency room instead of primary care.”

Bradford cites personal responsibility for one’s health as part of the answer, “Prior to needing some kind of health program, we should be exercising, eating right, being proactive and seeking a health care provider. A lot of the responsibility is going to fall on us because accessing health care in a timely manner is almost going to be a thing of the past. LSU is already backed up to where if you need an appointment you’re backed up three to six months.”

Bradford puts the blame for the situation on the people and the leaders, “We as a people are sleeping as while all this significant change is being thrust upon us. It may not appear now that it’s going to be detrimental, but in the long run its going to have a great impact. We could wake up and find that we have created a permanent underclass of Black people. Our state officials are failing us. They have not had any kind of public forums or informational meetings with their districts to make them aware of what’s coming down the pike that will be affecting them. We must be conscious and enlightened.

“These programs that affect the poor and disenfranchised must be maintained because if they don’t then I can’t even imagine.”

Burrell says the state is facing two disasters right now, health care and Isaac. “I have growing concerns moreso now than ever before, that governor Jindal has a particular view in mind of how he wants this system to look. He’s on a mission to privatize some of these services. It appears to be more political than anything else. I just received a letter calling for a special session to go back and deal with the governor not including legislators in the process of restructuring the LSU System. I have a very serious problem that we’re not involved. It has become clear that he has national ambitions, I am clear that this is to come into play before the Affordable Care Act. I can see it being very detrimental to the poor and middle class who use these facilities.”

Burrell says that the massive cuts are reducing employment but not creating efficiency and that LSU is going to be drastically affected by the reduction of services. “Everyday there appears to be something else that the governor is doing that we have no hand in as a legislature. It’s time for some of us to stand up and say ‘we recognize what your mission is but we need to be a part of that and we need to have a dialogue where we don’t wind up mostly hurting the people of this state.”

Burrell is calling for local leaders to come forward, “If there is any leadership out there, whether it’s religious or civic, it’s time to take this issue seriously and start hassling their representatives. I can tell because very few people are calling this office. Just in the past week Jindal has make some major changes. One of those was firing Cerise which sent a ripple effect. I’m not trying to be an alarmist but, if we don’t watch it there’s going to be civil unrest.”

This article originally published in the September 3, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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