Re: "Health groups pledge savings: Obama finds allies in private sector," Page 1, May 11.
Common sense tells you if you can cut out all the administrative costs dealing with health care insurance companies and cut out the billions in profit, that we would save money with a single-payer health care system.
Our taxes would go up, but not as much as it costs us to obtain health insurance.
It's simple economics that government fails to recognize.
Sounds like a lot of payoffs are at work.
By SARAH CHACKO
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
Despite concerns that
Committee members also approved a proposed constitutional amendment to expand the state’s freedom of religion clause.
Under House Bill 517, any person, employer or entity would have the right to not provide health-care services that violate their religious or moral principles.
“The so-called right to choose has become the right to coerce people to act against their conscience,” said Dorinda Bordlee, vice president of the Bioethics Defense Fund.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. H. Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte, was postponed last week amid concerns that its language was overly broad and would allow doctors to refuse life-saving procedures.
LeBas offered amendments to the bill Monday to include “abortion, dispensation of drugs affecting the reproductive process, artificial insemination, sterilization, artificial reproductive technologies, human embryonic stem cell research, human embryo cloning, fetal experimentation, euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide” in the services that could be refused.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, said the amendments did not satisfy an agreement LeBas made last week to limit the bill to only those services.
Bordlee said she believed other services, like blood transfusions, were allowed under added language that would require health-care providers to provide emergency care.
Edwards said not all blood transfusions are done in emergency situations.
A private employer should not be required to keep an employee who refuses to do what is expected by the employer, Edwards said. Also, private employers are not required to offer these services, he said.
“The amendments offered today are more problematic than the bill’s original form,” Edwards said.
Edwards unsuccessfully attempted to amend the bill to limit services and apply the law only to state agencies.
Julie Mickelberry with Planned Parenthood said HB517 would apply not only to doctors, nurses and pharmacists but insurance companies and appointment schedulers as well.
“This puts the beliefs of medical providers first and patients’ health last,” she said.
Marjorie Esman with the American Civil Liberties Union also raised concerns that the bill would allow health-care providers to discriminate on the basis of race, sexual orientation and politics.
Edwards said after the meeting that many committee members told him they agreed with his concerns. But no one was willing to oppose the legislation because it was supported by the Louisiana Family Forum, he said.
“I’m very discouraged,” Edwards said.
The committee also approved House Bill 340, which would require the state to prove it has a compelling interest to infringe on the religious rights of state employees or agencies.
State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Jefferson, said when the state constitution was written in 1974, legislators used the exact language in the U.S. Constitution to ensure the same freedom of religion protections.
But at that time, Henry said, the federal courts used a “compelling interest” test to judge whether a state’s interest outweighed a person or agency’s freedom of religion and religious expression.
Southern law professor Michelle Ghetti said that in 1990, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that unless the law specifically targets religion, the “compelling interest” burden does not apply.
If HB340 is passed by the Legislature, it would then have to be approved by voters.
The Associated Press
And she also suggested Tuesday that the Obama administration wouldn't hesitate to call them out if they retreat on the promise to slow spending growth by $2 trillion over the next 10 years.
Sebelius (seh-BEEL'-yuhs) was asked on ABC's "Good Morning America" what enforcement mechanism the administration would have if doctors, hospitals, insurers and other industry players renege on their promise to contain costs.
The Kansas Democrat responded that political pressure would be brought to bear, saying a significant aspect of Obama's election last November "was about changing the health care system."
Community meeting today on planned closure of NOAH
The Times-Picayune | 05.12.09
A meeting will be held today in
The meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. in City Council Chambers and will be attended by members of the City Council, city administration officials, local mental health experts and organizations.
The evening meeting time was specifically chosen to accommodate people who work or are otherwise unavailable during the day.
Tonight's invited guests include Retired Judge Calvin Johnson of the Metropolitan Human Services District; Dr. Kevin Stephens of the City of New Orleans Health Department; Cecile Tebo of the New Orleans Police Department's Crisis Unit and other mental health care providers and experts.
The closing of NOAH is part of Gov. Bobby Jindal's proposed health care cuts.
Jindal wants to fold NOAH into a facility in Mandeville.
By MARSHA SHULER
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
Pennington is the first state agency to receive state Civil Service approval for the step. The research facility is suspending raises as part of a plan to offset $2.4 million in proposed cuts to its budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
The freeze on merit pay would affect 452 classified and unclassified Pennington employees, said Ralph Underwood, Pennington’s associate executive director for administration and finance.
Civil Service official Judy McGimpsey said Pennington is the only agency so far that is using the non-payment of merit pay as a layoff alternative for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
“Our staff has been in conversation with many agencies about options,” McGimpsey said. But no others had been filed as of Monday, she said.
The state Civil Service Commission has a proposal on its June meeting agenda that would eliminate merit pay raises for all classified state employees for the upcoming fiscal year
“If the commission approves the rule change, it will not be necessary for agencies to submit individual plans to withhold merits for fiscal year 2009-10,” McGimpsey said.
Pennington spokesman Glen Duncan said the decision to scrap merit pay raises came as the Perkins Road facility looked at all avenues “to protect our science and competitiveness of science and protect as many jobs as we could.”
“We went through every part of our cost stream” from air
conditioning and heating expenses to faculty resignations,
Withholding or reducing merit pay, furloughs and reductions in work hours are among the options available to state agencies to avoid layoffs in times of financial problems.
The commission is considering action that would require all state agencies to withhold the 4 percent merit pay increases granted on an employees anniversary date.
Already the proposed $27 billion state budget bill includes language that would bar the granting of the raises, but the actual move takes Civil Service Commission approval.
Often in tough budget times, state agencies are not given the funding to cover the pay raises but are allowed to cut in other areas to generate the funding. The commission and the budget action would eliminate that as an option for some 60,000 rank-and-file state employees protected by Civil Service.
Currently agencies are required to submit a letter documenting their request for approval by the Civil Service executive director prior to the effective date of any layoff avoidance action, McGimpsey said.
The Associated Press
(AP) — BATON ROUGE,
The committee delayed action last week because lawmakers had unanswered questions. Lawmakers are scheduled to hear the bill again Tuesday.
The mobile dental clinics have provided care to thousands
Opponents say the clinics bring care to children who otherwise might never see a dentist. And they claim the bill is a bid by some dentists to get more money for themselves, now that the state has increased reimbursement rates for dental work through the Medicaid program.
Watch the video: http://www.wwltv.com/video/news-index.html?nvid=360661
A plan to take dental care to students at schools is facing opposition, citing improper settings and poor facilities.
11 new swine flu cases confirmed in state
Advocate staff writer
State health officials announced Monday that 11 more cases
of swine flu were confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, bringing the total in
“As we expected, our state has additional confirmed cases of H1N1 flu,” Alan Levine, secretary for the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals, said in a DHH news release.
The 20 confirmed cases of swine flu involve: 14 in
Lafayette Parish, three in Lafourche Parish, and one each in Ascension,
There are still 29 samples from suspected cases in
“Our staff and public health experts remain watchful and continue to work with health-care providers statewide on tracking this virus,” Levine added.
But it’s going to be more difficult to track the disease after the CDC and DHH changed their guidelines Thursday.
The two health agencies now advise that people who have mild flu symptoms do not need to go to the doctor, and should not be tested for swine flu.
Unless people have a severe case of the flu, they will not be given a prescription for the anti-viral medications Tamiflu and Relenza, health officials have said.
“It is expected that most people with novel H1N1 will recover without needing medical care, or testing to see if they have H1N1 flu,” the news release says.
CDC and DHH, however, did say those at high risk for complications from the flu, including pregnant women, the elderly or the very young and people with chronic illnesses, should seek medical care if they have flu symptoms.
“CDC and DHH are recommending antiviral treatment of H1N1 flu only for hospitalized patients with confirmed or suspected H1N1 flu, or those patients who are at higher risk for seasonal influenza complication,” according to the news release.
The CDC describes the H1N1 virus as a flu of “swine origin” that was first detected in April.
As of 11 a.m. Monday, there were 2,600 cases in the
There are 4,762 cases reported worldwide, including 1,626
There have been 53 deaths from H1N1 in four nations: 48 in
By Mike Hasten
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals announced Monday that 11 more cases of H1N1 influenza, commonly known as swine flu, have been confirmed, including the first confirmed case in St. Landry Parish.
Of the other 10 new cases, seven are from Lafayette Parish, the site of the initial outbreak in the state, with the other three from Lafourche Parish.
DHH officials said they are also looking at another 29 probable cases, including an additional case in St. Landry Parish.
"As we suspected, our state has additional confirmed cases of the new H1N1 flu," said Alan Levine," secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals in a news release. "While this new flu strain has proven to be milder than first thought, we continue to encourage all Louisianans to practice good hygiene to help prevent the spread of germs and illness."
Levine said his staff and public health experts will "continue to work with health care providers statewide on tracking this virus."
The new cases bring the state total of confirmed H1N1
virus to 20, up from nine. Another 29 "probable" cases have been
sent to the CDC for testing, with the addition of seven new ones sent this
past weekend. The seven new ones are from Plaquemines (3),
Levine said it is expected that most people with novel H1N1 flu will recover without needing medical care or testing to see if they have H1N1 flu.
DHH and the CDC were at first concerned about the flu because it was new and they were not sure how seriously it would affect victims. He said people should still take precautions to try to avoid contracting the flu.
The state has obtained a machine to do its own testing of
possible H1N1 cases but until the CDC certifies its results, samples will
still be sent to
By JORDAN BLUM
Advocate Capitol News Bureau
The tuition raises represent the second of four years of tuition increases that were approved last year by the Legislature. The joint panel of members of the House and Senate fiscal committees must give additional consent each year.
State Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen said
the increases would range from $40 per year at
Every university and many two-year schools are expected to take the full 5 percent, including a $93 price increase at Baton Rouge Community College boosting costs to $1,947 a year.
However, a handful of community colleges such as
State Rep. Karen Peterson, D-New Orleans, said she opposes “taxing” students with tuition increases, but realizes colleges have few other options because of budget cuts.
“I’ve repeatedly tried to redirect state dollars (to higher education) in the last two weeks,” Peterson said of her frustrations in getting more state dollars for colleges.
“That’s what this is — a tax on students to fill a need in higher ed,” Peterson said. “I guess we don’t have any alternatives.”
The state budget has set aside an extra $7 million in funding increases for merit-based TOPS scholarships — Taylor Opportunity Program for Students — to compensate for the cost boosts.
Donnie Vandal, Board of Regents deputy commissioner for finance, said about 43,000 of the state’s 200,000 public college students are on TOPS, including most incoming LSU students. Many students not on TOPS are ineligible because they are graduate students, part-time, out-of-state or simply lacked the necessary test scores and grades, he said.
Clausen said federal, need-based Pell grants are on the rise and the state has need-based Go Grants. So middle-class students who do not qualify for TOPS are the most affected by tuition increases.
Statewide, the tuition increases would result in $29 million in extra revenue for public colleges, Clausen said.
Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed $220 million in cuts to colleges for the coming fiscal year because of declining state revenue — a loss of about 15 percent of state funds for colleges.
The cuts currently stand at $160 million after adjustments were made last week by the House Appropriations Committee. But the budget bill still must travel through the House floor and the Senate.
College leaders have warned the cuts will lead to lots of layoffs, academic program eliminations and larger class sizes. Clausen said more information is being provided Wednesday to House members.
Among the additional information, Clausen said, she will propose a plan that guarantees admission into public universities for students who graduate from community colleges.
When pressed, Clausen said top college leaders are considering pay cuts.
Clausen noted that only
LSU System President John Lombardi said campuses also are considering student fee increases in the few areas that do not require two-thirds legislative approval.
Lombardi said LSU campuses are considering increases in on-campus housing costs, utility surcharges and health center fees.
State Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi, discussed the option of using state rainy day funds to help colleges, an idea that Jindal opposes.
“Would you consider us in a rainy-day situation at this point?” Thompson asked.
“I think it’s storming,” Clausen said, not missing a beat.
“We’re worried about in two years when it’s going to be a tsunami,” said state Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell, referring to when federal stimulus aid runs out and cuts could hypothetically worsen.
State Sen. Jack Donahue, R-Covington, said college leaders are being “too nice” in warning of the severity of the cuts.
“We have enough money in this state,” he said. “I think it’s going to the wrong places.”
The tuition increase was approved by a 21-3 vote. State Sens. Nick Gautreaux, D-Meaux; Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport; and Ed Murray, D-New Orleans, voted against it.
Anticipated tuition increases for the fall (annual tuition and fees costs included):
LSU: $5,086 to $5,340
SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY: $3,906 to $4,101
SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY AT
LSU AT EUNICE: $2,355 to $2,426
SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY AT
by Bill Barrow, The Times-Picayune
BATON ROUGE -- A House panel gave overwhelming approval Monday to two measures pitched as protections of religious freedom, with the more controversial designed to give legal protections to workers in the medical field who refuse to provide certain services -- some related to contraception -- because of their beliefs.
House Bill 517 by Rep. Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte, cleared the Civil Law & Procedure Committee without a dissenting vote, but not without questions and debate over whether it will restrict access to health-care services and information.
"This bill puts the beliefs of medical providers first and the medical needs of patients last," Julie Mickelberry of Planned Parenthood said.
Mickelberry said the bill's wording is vague and could extend protections beyond doctors and nurses to a much wider range of people with a hand in the health-care system, including office schedulers and insurance claim processors.
Dorinda Bordlee, an attorney for the Bioethics Defense Fund, countered that the proposal, which has the backing of some clergy, allows people of faith to work as medical professionals without being forced to administer drugs or procedures that violate their moral codes.
The bill, which LeBas revised after a week of private negotiations, would provide civil immunity and job protection to private and public employees who decline a certain list of procedures out of "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction."
The new version states that the services covered would include "but (not be) limited to abortion, dispensation of drugs affecting the reproductive process, artificial insemination, sterilization, artificial reproductive technologies, human embryonic stem cell research, human embryo cloning, fetal experimentation, euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide."
The bill now goes to the full House.
The debate comes amid a similar policy skirmish at the federal level.
President Barack Obama earlier this year rescinded a late-hour executive order from President George W. Bush touted by social conservative as strengthening the "conscience protections" for medical workers. Bush's order would have cut off federal financing for thousands of state and local governments and health care entities if they did not accommodate workers who refuse to participate in care they felt violated their moral or religious beliefs.
Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, sought an amendment that would have trimmed the list of included services. The amendment, which failed 10-3, would have addressed the concerns from Mickelberry and others that that the reference to reproductive drugs is so broad to include not only abortion-inducing drugs, but also the so-called "morning after pill" that prevents pregnancy and regular contraception.
Edwards also wanted to apply the law only to public employees. Bordlee said that would leave out thousands of workers in the state's widely spread Catholic and Baptist health-care facilities.
Separately, the committee endorsed a constitutional amendment from Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Jefferson, that would expand the state's religious freedom protections, which now mirror the "establishment clause" in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
House Bill 340 would add, among other details, that, "No person under the color of law shall burden the free exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the government proves that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing upon the specific expression, act, or refusal to act at issue."
Gene Mills of the Louisiana Family Forum said the change
is needed to counter growing threats to religious expression in the
Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Video: Watch the Story
“They come to the emergency department because they couldn't get an appointment that was convenient to their schedule with their regular physician, or they don't want to wait,” said Eva Morris, a registered nurse at Touro Infirmary.
“It's easy coming to the emergency department,” agrees Ochnser Clinic Foundation Dr. Joseph Guarisco. “Access is good. We're open 24 hours a day. It's convenient. So there are a lot of drivers that bring patients to the emergency department.”
Some of the patients are what the hospitals call "frequent fliers."
Last year the most frequent visitors hit the emergency
room at both
“There's always those that you can predict on a really, really cold night or really, really rainy day, they're going to seek refuge in the emergency department,” Touro nurse Eva Morris said. “Because there's always a controlled climate, there's always food, and there's always a soft bed for them.”
“Roughly one in five people that come into the emergency
room, at least post-Katrina, at the time of their presentation, is unable to
pay,” said Angela Greener, the chief administrative officer at
Britney Rodriguez's mother is one of those who is unable
to pay. She said that's what brought
“Basically, she has no job, which means no health insurance, so she doesn't see her doctor on a normal basis. So if anything's wrong, the first place to come really is the emergency room,” Rodriguez said.
According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the most frequent visitors to emergency rooms are the poor, elderly and chronically ill.
“When you come to the emergency room, it's kind of a ‘bill you later’ kind of thing, you know,” Rodriguez said. “If you go to a private practice, you have to pay up front, which a lot of people don't have the money to do. People who don't have coverage, don't have the money to pay upfront.”
So who pays for the frequent fliers who can't?
“As we know, patients with insurance, subsidize those patients without insurance. That's how it's paid for right now,” said Dr. Guarisco of Ochsner.
Guarisco said, by law, emergency rooms have to treat every patient who walks through the door, regardless of their ability to pay. He also said it's important not to prejudge patients, even if they're frequent visitors.
“The migraine headache can be internal bleeding. The chronic belly pain could one day be appendicitis,” Guarisco said. “Patients with chronic medical conditions or who come here frequently with non-urgent conditions some day at some point, they will have an emergency.”
Angela Greener at
“Don't plan on coming to the emergency room if you don't have a true emergency,” she said. “If you have a sore throat and you know that's it's not a true life or limb threatening emergency, you're going to be here for quite a while and unfortunately, you're also going to take up time from patients that are sicker that really do need to come into the hospital.”
Eva Morris at Touro said there are huge costs that come with unnecessary emergency room visits.
“Diagnostics, including CT’s, x-rays, lab work, all of those can amount to $5000 or more per visit,” Morris said.
Guarisco said the metro area needs more community based medical clinics that offer patients the same convenience as emergency rooms.
“That is extended hours, easy access, friendly atmosphere,” he said. “I would think they would achieve success by providing the same things that patients look for in the emergency department, which is access beyond the 8-to-5.”
Rodriguez said her mother would prefer to see a regular doctor than visit the E.R. every time she needs to refill her medication.
“It's better for everyone if everyone has health insurance and everyone can go to a regular doctor. That means lower fees, lower medical insurance for everybody.”
The average emergency room bill in the
Grounding the frequent fliers could save the state
hospitals and patients millions of dollars a year.
Oh, the world of hurt Bobby Jindal was supposed to be in by now.
A month ago, his constant coast-to-coast fundraising was straining the patience of even his friends, who wished aloud that he were spending more time at home dealing with the state's problems. And there were plenty of those, mostly linked to a gaping budget deficit, which promised to make his first legislative fiscal session a miserable one. Add to that, lawmakers, still harboring grudges for his vetoes of their pay raise and scores of local projects last year, were said to be lying in wait for payback.
It looked like an ominous session indeed for the governor, until it began, when the scene at the Capitol snapped back to the old reality. In the first two weeks, the governor's staff efficiently snuffed out or sidetracked bills the administration opposed, advanced ones it liked and easily fended off legislators' initial budget raids on his economic development mega fund.
He also demonstrated a grasp for the art of the deal by
proposing creative terms for a new long-term contract with the New Orleans
Saints while at the same time pushing approval of spending $50 million to
save a chicken processing plant in
What did Jindal do to reassert his influence and authority over a resentful Legislature? Why, he showed up, which is pretty much all that's needed in a political system that affords so much power to a governor when he acts like one.
Democrats outnumber his Republicans, especially in the Senate, but partisanship has yet to come into play in this session. The most direct challenge to Gov. Jindal's fiscal policy, the proposed cigarette tax to restore healthcare cuts, has not unified Democrats.
They will band together more to challenge his refusal to accept $98 million in added unemployment benefits from the federal stimulus package, but supporters concede it won't be enough to overcome his promised veto.
The issue that is causing Jindal the most trouble, at
least in the public prints, comes at the hands of two Republicans. He has
strongly opposed identical bills by Rep. Wayne Waddell of
The governor's broad exemption from the public records act predates Jindal, but it perfectly suits his control personality that is reflected in his protective, insular staff.
Legislators and his contributors learned quickly not to expect return phone calls from the governor. He talks to people when he needs them, not the other way around.
Formalizing any more access to his office is not in his interest. The legal contortions New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is going through fighting the release of his schedule and e-mail probably makes the governor all the more careful to not let down his public records shield.
Now if legislators were truly seeking revenge for Jindal's veto of their payraise, they would pass a public records law opening up his office like a sardine can.
That they haven't suggests the notion of veto payback is vastly overstated. Legislators may still resent his nixing their raises, but some concede he did them a favor. What if they were pulling down $50,000+ in total compensation while considering big budget cuts that would force layoffs in higher education and healthcare? Half of them would be facing recall petitions and harboring little hope of re-election. The mistake he and they both made was in forming their secret pact, which intense public anger, acting as a force majeure, nullified.
Lawmakers might still pass a public records bill Jindal doesn't like, or find some other vote on which to stick him. But most of them, when it gets right down to it, want to stay in the governor's good graces, even if he ignores them most of the time.
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