LA: Hospitals Could Lose Health Dollars

BATON ROUGE — The New Orleans region could lose up to $70 million a year in health care financing under a bill approved overwhelmingly by the Senate on Monday that aims to redistribute the way money is divided among southern Louisiana charity hospitals.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said his Senate Bill 402 was filed to correct what he views as a disparity between the amount of tax dollars that flow to the New Orleans Charity Hospital facilities compared with other hospitals in the public hospital system run by Louisiana State University.

“There is no evidence that the patients are sicker in New Orleans,” Cassidy said. “Poor people, uninsured people are sick. They may be less sick in New Orleans because care does not have to be delayed.”

Opponents said New Orleans deserves the money it gets because a disproportionate amount of expensive and complex procedures, such as open-heart surgery, are performed there while regional hospitals often focus on routine primary care.

“Is it possible that in New Orleans they’re treating AIDS patients, which might be a little more expensive than, for example, an ingrown toenail,” Sen. John Alario, D-Westwego, said.

Currently, most of the uninsured care in the public hospital system is financed by Medicaid “disproportionate share” dollars. The LSU Health Care Services Division, which oversees the seven state hospitals in southern Louisiana, decides how the money should be divided among the various facilities.

The bill, which passed 27-8 and next moves to the House, would not affect financing for private and community hospitals, rural hospitals or charity hospitals in Alexandria, Monroe and Shreveport.

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