Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief budget adviser said Monday the administration will continue on course to privatize Louisiana’s public hospitals, despite a recent federal rejection of those plans.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rejected financing plans for most of the privatization deals last week. A pending deal to transition services from Huey P. Long Medical Center in Pineville to local hospitals Christus St. Frances Cabrini Medical Center and Rapides Regional Medical Center was not addressed in the CMS ruling.
Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said the state would appeal the CMS ruling and would negotiate alternative financing plans to keep the hospital deals in place, in case the appeal is denied. She said the financial implications of the rejection won’t hit Louisiana until August or September 2015, by which point she is hopeful resolution will have been reached.
“We are fully invested in this model,” Nichols said. “It’s working.”
Meanwhile, representatives from two citizens groups are urging legislators to vote against closing Huey P. Long.
The hospital has downsized in recent months as most of its patients have been transferred to clinics run by Cabrini and Rapides Regional, or to the hospitals’ main campuses. But the hospital cannot be closed without legislative approval.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 48 would grant that approval. It was scheduled to be heard today by the House Health and Welfare Committee.
Pineville Concerned Citizens and the Enough is Enough Coalition addressed the media Monday in front of Huey P. Long to ask legislators to vote against the resolution.
“We’re calling on legislators to pull back and rethink,” said Mike Stagg with the Enough is Enough Coalition. “We just don’t think the legislature can proceed with the closure of (HPL) when the overall scheme has been rejected.”
In its rejection letter, CMS said the agreements don’t meet federal guidelines governing how Medicaid dollars can be spent.
The federal health agency took issue with $266 million in “advance lease payments” that the hospital managers paid upfront as part of the no-bid contracts with the state. It said those payments appeared linked to higher Medicaid payments that the private hospital operators were receiving, reimbursement rates that are larger than what other private hospitals in the state get for uninsured and Medicaid patient care.
Only one privatization deal in Louisiana has received federal approval — the one that transferred most services from Earl K. Long Medical Center in Baton Rouge to Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center.
“They never got (federal) approval,” Stagg said. “They just plunged ahead. It was reckless. Legislators have the chance to put the brakes on it now, and they need to.”
Huey P. Long mainly functions as an emergency department now, with about 220 employees treating 30-50 patients a day. John Dailey, vice chancellor for administration and chief operating officer of LSU Health Shreveport, which manages HPL, said he was pleased with the transition of services so far.
“I think patients and caregivers are generally upbeat about the progress that has been made,” Dailey said. “It has been a very, very well coordinated effort. Have things been perfect? No. But I’m very proud of the effort.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.