Covering Louisiana

May 6, 2014 6:46 PM by AP

Lawmakers advance next hospital privatization plan

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration pushed ahead Tuesday with privatization plans for an LSU hospital that cares for Louisiana's poor and uninsured in central Louisiana, despite the recent rejection of federal financing plans for other hospital outsourcing deals.

Lawmakers appear willing to go along with the effort.

The House Health and Welfare Committee voted 10-8 for a Senate-backed measure that would authorize the shuttering of the university-run Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville and move its services to two nearby private hospitals, CHRISTUS St. Frances Cabrini Hospital and Rapides Regional Medical Center.

The closure legislation by Sen. Gerald Long, R-Winnfield, is one step from final passage, needing approval only from the full House, but lawmakers on the House committee worried that a recent decision from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, could disrupt the plans.

CMS on Friday refused financing plans submitted by the Jindal administration covering six of the privatization deals that turned over state-owned health care facilities to private managers. The governor plans to appeal, and state health officials also are trying to negotiate alternate funding plans to keep the hospital deals in place.

LSU health care adviser Jerry Phillips said the federal refusal won't affect the Pineville plans because it isn't structured the same way.

Jindal has pushed to privatize nearly all the university-run hospitals and clinics. Eight hospital deals have taken effect so far, though only one contractual arrangement in Baton Rouge has received federal approval.

Supporters of the Pineville privatization deal said it would provide better care for the poor and uninsured than relying on an outdated hospital opened in 1938 that only has 10 inpatient beds operating today.

"This collaboration will result in expanded care, better access and last but not least, an improvement in services," said Hugh Mighty, vice chancellor for clinical affairs at the LSU Health Sciences Center-Shreveport, which oversees the Pineville hospital.

But doctors who work at the LSU hospital said some services already have been shifted to the private facilities and patients have complained about co-pays they can't afford and long waits.

"When they go over to those clinics, they feel like they're not wanted," said Stacy Zeller, an emergency room physician at Huey P. Long. "This community needs us, and they don't care about the run-down hospital. They care about seeing a doctor."

The senator whose district includes the public hospital, Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, urged delay of the hospital closure legislation until three outpatient and specialty clinics promised by the Jindal administration are open.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, pushed for support, saying a similar move last year that closed the LSU-run hospital in Lake Charles and moved its inpatient services to private hospitals has improved access to services for the poor and uninsured.

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