Louisiana Will Stop Providing End of Life Care to Low-Income Americans
By Sy Mukherjee, ThinkProgress
20 January 13
This week, potential Republican presidential contender Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA) rolled out one of the country's most regressive tax proposals, a plan that would shift Louisiana's tax burden away from the wealthy by raising taxes on the bottom 80 percent of state residents. Apparently, the "austerity" measures don't stop there.
According to New Orleans CBS affiliate WWLTV, Louisiana residents over the age of 21 who are on Medicaid - the public insurance program for disabled and poor Americans - will stop receiving hospice care benefits at the end of this month. That means that low-income Louisianans with terminal illnesses, debilitating disabilities, and chronic long-term medical problems will no longer have access to the essential home and medical care that they need.
And while the cuts are intended to help the state balance its budget, critics point out that it is more likely to increase health care costs by pushing previously-insured Americans with costly medical conditions into private hospitals and emergency rooms where they will not be able to afford their treatments.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals say the elimination of hospice care for Medicaid patients will mean nearly $3.3 million in savings this year alone. In 2014, it'll mean $8.3 million in savings.
However, Burns believes the state will end up paying much more with terminally ill patients forced to turn to local hospitals.
"They'll just go in and out of the hospitals, maybe go to ICUs, and they won't be able to have their family around them with hospice care," said Burns. [...]
DHH says there were 5,819 recipients of hospice services through Louisiana Medicaid in the previous fiscal year.
By the Louisiana DHH's own estimates, the cuts to Medicaid hospice-care beneficiaries are only expected to reduce the state's projected $900 million budget deficit by 0.92 percent in 2014. These cuts will be imposed on top of the already draconian cutbacks to public education and health care programs that Jindal has in the pipeline.
Battles over Medicaid funding, particularly for those in need of long-term, specialized care, are nothing new. State budget cuts to the Medicaid program have long left disabled and special-needs Americans by the wayside, even in progressive states such as California. But one of the easiest ways for states to address their perennial public health funding issues is for them to participate in Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, which the federal government will fund for the first several years.