hospital privatization

“Is your hospital next?” asked a sign prominently displayed during a February 11 rally on the state Capitol steps, protesting the planned closure of Baton Rouge General’s Mid-City Emergency Room. With that ER shutting down tomorrow—an unintended consequence of privatizing Louisiana’s charity hospital system—it’s a question that continues to trouble Baton Rouge Rep. Patricia Smith.

The closure of Earl K. Long hospital last year with the privatization of Louisiana’s charity hospital system sent a wave of uninsured patients to Baton Rouge General.

Under the strain of their care, the hospital had decided to close its emergency room. But Baton Rouge General’s ER was rescued at the last-minute Wednesday.

Don Gregory, health policy advisor for the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, explains whether that deserves a sigh of relief. 


Baton Rouge General's mid-city emergency room at night.
Sue Lincoln

The state Department of Health and Hospitals has found funds to allow Baton Rouge General Hospital to keep its emergency room open after an imminent threat of closure.

Several local media outlets reported Wednesday morning that the hospital administration had notified staff that the ER would close Nov. 1.

DHH preempted any official closure announcement with a last-minute deal, providing the hospital $18 million in state and federal money to care for the uninsured. Hospital President Mark Slyter called the deal a “hail Mary pass”.

A week ago, the federal Centers for Medicaid Services once again threw a wrench in Louisiana’s works, giving a thumbs down to the privatization of the LSU charity hospital system, which is nonetheless charging forward.

 

 


Sue Lincoln

Louisiana got some bad news from the federal Center for Medicaid Services (CMS) late last Friday. CMS says “no deal” on six of the LSU hospital public-private partnerships.

“I don’t know what their issue is, but it appears that the basis for the denial is related to the means of financing—specifically as it relates to the advance lease payments,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols told the House Appropriations committee Monday.

Supporters of Medicaid expansion gather on the state capitol steps. April 23, 2014.
Amy Jeffries / WRKF

At the conclusion of nearly five hours of emotional testimony, Senate Health and Welfare Committee Chairman David Heitmeier read the names of those weighing in on Senator Ben Nevers’ bill. The proposal would have put a constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act before voters in Louisiana.

“You’ve got a lot of support here, Sen. Nevers," Heitmeier said.

But Nevers didn’t have the support of the committee. His bill was stopped on a 6 to 2 vote that fell along party lines.


Baton Rouge General's mid-city emergency room at night.
Sue Lincoln

It’s been nearly a year since the state started implementing public-private partnerships for the LSU Hospital System, formerly known as Louisiana’s Charity Hospitals. The plan was pushed as a cost-saver for the state. How is it working out? Good for some and not so good for others—with patients and hospital caregivers caught in the middle.

A recent report by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana concludes that with the privatization of the charity hospital system, Louisiana’s safety net is being reinvented. 

The reinvention will likely come up again in the legislature when it convenes in March as lawmakers dig up debate on Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. And the candidates for governor will be staking out positions on healthcare reform.