Gov. John Bel Edwards appeared before the Senate Finance committee Sunday, once again reminding lawmakers of the looming budget problem the state faces and the impact it could have, especially in health care.
The state’s safety net hospitals — which are run by a private partner with state money — have seen their state funding cut over the last two years. And as of right now, they aren't funded at all in next year's budget. Edwards says that's raising concerns among the private partners.
"I assured them this year, we are committed to not cutting them again, if we can fix the cliff," the Governor told members of the committee.
Without a solution to the fiscal cliff, the state's partners in Lafayette and New Orleans have warned they're willing to terminate their contracts to run safety-net hospitals. Katie Hebert is in charge of University Health and Clinics in Lafayette.
“If we don’t have funding July 1," she explained, "we cannot fund UHC.” Leaving the state to take over the facility.
These partnerships also help fund graduate medical education across Louisiana. Dr. Steve Nelson, dean of the LSU medical school in New Orleans, says these are the hospitals where many residents get their clinical training.
"It's your third and fourth years, in your residency, where you really learn how to be a doctor. That's where you learn how to take care of patients. And if there's no hospital, there's no format to do that," he explained.
Nelson says the continued budget uncertainty is causing students to reconsider going to medical school in Louisiana. Six years ago, over 60 percent of Louisiana’s pre-med students stayed in state for med school. This year that number dropped to 46 percent.
"The education that my students and residents are getting now, is the best it's ever been, and to lose this would be a tragedy," he said.