Content tagged “Health”

Average La. doctor supporting nearly 10 jobs, report says

Louisiana doctors support approximately 94,000 jobs in the state, creating roughly $7.7 billion in wages annually and generating an estimated $13.2 billion in sales revenue, as well as $461.2 million in state and local sales taxes. Those are the highlights of an economic impact report released today by the American Medical Association, which details doctors' economic impact on the national and state level. The study, which the AMA says only includes doctors whose primary duty is to treat patients, says physicians nationwide account for $1.6 trillion in wages annually, supporting approximately 9.9 million jobs. "The purpose of the study is to provide key data demonstrating the tremendous impact physicians have on the state and national economy, and underscores that physicians are strong economic drivers in their local communities, contributing to better health care and a more productive society," the AMA says of the study, adding the data can be used "in a wide variety of advocacy...

BR improves to No. 63 on index of US cities' well-being

Baton Rouge has been steadily rising in recent years in the ranking of U.S. cities by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which measures perceptions of residents’ well-being based on six metrics, including life evaluation, emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and care access. In the latest annual report for 2013, Baton Rouge is ranked No. 63, up four spots from a year earlier. Since landing a No. 117 ranking in the 2010 report, Baton Rouge has seen its ranking rise 34 spots to No. 83 in 2011, and then to No. 67 in the report for 2012. As previously reported, Louisiana rose two spots in the latest Gallup study among all 50 states, but is still listed at No. 41 overall. Louisiana's best ranking, No. 36, came in 2011. The state's worst ranking since the index began in 2008 came last year. Louisiana's index score was based on surveys conducted...

La. launches Well-Ahead initiative to spotlight healthy businesses, schools and others

Gov. Bobby Jindal and Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert were joined today by dozens of local supporting organizations to launch the Well-Ahead Louisiana initiative, a first-of-its-kind voluntary designation program that will designate healthy places around the state that champion health and wellness. "The largest component of this program is the recognition of businesses, schools and other organizations across our state that are making it easier for our people to make healthier choices," Jindal says in a prepared statement. "This program is a testament to the fact that we can be healthy without raising taxes or passing burdensome, complicated laws." Employers, schools, health care providers, universities, child care centers and restaurants can choose to seek designation as a Well-Ahead Louisiana location, or "WellSpot." There will be three different levels of achievement participating entities can attain, reflecting their wellness policies and...

Poll: 62% of Americans believe GOP will repeal Obamacare

A majority of Americans believe that President Barack Obama's signature health care law will be repealed. A new Rasmussen Reports poll found that 62% of likely voters believe that Republicans will repeal Obamacare, which recently marked its fourth anniversary. Only 23% of those polled believe that the health care law has been a success, compared to 46% who describe the law as a failure. Wading into one of the most contentious policy issues in the upcoming midterm elections, Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a Republican alternative to Obama's health care overhaul last week, saying states should play a greater role in containing health care costs while giving consumers more flexibility in choosing insurance plans. Jindal says Obama's health care law should be "repealed in its entirety" but adds Republicans need to offer a better way to reform the health care system. Jindal's plan aims to...

Survey: Majority of Louisianans' health coverage unchanged by ACA

The results of a new survey conducted with 600 Louisianans on behalf of local businessman Lane Grigsby show that the majority of residents have not seen their health insurance changed by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. On Obamacare, 72.5% of respondents said they "have the same health insurance I had before the law and nothing has changed with my health insurance coverage." Just shy of 26% of respondents say that statement does not apply to them, indicating their coverage has changed since the law was passed; 1.7% were undecided. Meanwhile, 43.3% of respondents say their health insurance deductibles and out of pocket medical expenses have increased since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, 9.3% of respondents say they had health insurance before the law, but that now their health insurance is more affordable. And 5.2% of respondents say that Obamacare allowed them to get health insurance, whereas they were unable to attain coverage before the...

Jindal releases alternative plan for Affordable Care Act

The morning after President Obama declared that the Affordable Care Act is "here to stay," Gov. Bobby Jindal is calling for its repeal and has released a formal alternative plan for the Republican party. The release of the plan by Jindal came just hours after Obama announced that, as of midnight Tuesday, 7.1 million Americans had enrolled in private health insurance plans under the act, slightly exceeding the administration's original goal despite initial, disastrous problems with the Healthcare.gov website. But Jindal calls the law "unpopular, unworkable, and misguided" in a report released this morning by America Next, a conservative nonprofit policy group he founded last year. Jindal was to further discuss his proposal this morning at a breakfast with reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. "Conventional wisdom in Washington holds that the law cannot be fully repealed," Jindal says in the report. "I couldn't disagree more. A country that won two world wars and...

'225': B.R. women battling body image issues head on

In a world where image can seem like everything and unrealistic ideals for weight and clothing size are the norm in advertisements, television and movies, McCall Manning Dempsey is helping to tear down those false ideals that hold far too many women hostage. As detailed in a 225 feature by contributing writer Jennifer Macha in the March issue, Dempsey is sharing her own story and helping to raise awareness of eating disorders and methods of overcoming them through her nonprofit organization, Southern Smash. Dempsey had a successful career, but she says her eating disorder consumed her time. Her own disorder started with restriction before snowballing into anorexia, bulimia, laxatives, diet pills and extreme over-exercising. She kept telling herself things weren't bad until fall 2009, when her diet pill started to cause serious side effects, such as heart palpitations and blacking out. In 2010, she admitted herself to the care of Carolina House in Durham, N.C. "I finally...

La. House health committee to debate new abortion rule today

A proposal to add new restrictions on abortion providers in Louisiana gets its first legislative hearing today before the House health care committee. The Associated Press reports Rep. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat from Monroe, is sponsoring a bill that would require doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital. It's similar to a controversial restriction recently passed in Texas. Jackson says the proposal would enact "common-sense safety standards" to protect women's health. Abortion rights supporters say if lawmakers pass the new requirement, it would force the closure of three of Louisiana's five abortion clinics—and leave none open south of Shreveport. Gov. Bobby Jindal backs the bill.

LSU researchers link dark chocolate to heart benefits, stroke risk reduction

Researchers at LSU say certain bacteria in the stomach gobble dark chocolate and ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart. As United Press International reports, study leader John Finley of LSU and his colleagues in Baton Rouge tested three cocoa powders using a model digestive tract, comprised of a series of modified test tubes, to simulate normal digestion. They then subjected the nondigestible materials to anaerobic fermentation using human fecal bacteria. Cocoa powder, an ingredient in chocolate, contains several polyphenolic, or antioxidant, compounds such as catechin and epicatechin, and a small amount of dietary fiber, Finley says. Both components are poorly digested and absorbed, but when they reach the colon, the desirable microbes take over. "In our study we found that the fiber is fermented and the large polyphenolic polymers are metabolized to smaller molecules, which are more easily absorbed. These smaller polymers exhibit anti-inflammatory...

Few La. lawmakers pledge opposition to expand Medicaid

It's been slow-going for a national tea party group trying to get state lawmakers to pledge their opposition to Democrats' efforts to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program. The Louisiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity sent the pledge request to all 144 lawmakers in February. A month later, Phillip Joffrion, director of the AFP state chapter, tells The Associated Press he has over a dozen signatures. That's not enough to defeat a Medicaid expansion bill. But Joffrion says he expects to get pledges from many more lawmakers now that the legislative session has opened. He says AFP has signatures from key legislative leaders, including Senate President John Alario and Rep. Scott Simon, chairman of the House health care committee. Plus, lawmakers rejected the Medicaid expansion last year, and it's strongly opposed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Health insurance sign-ups near 46,000 in Louisiana

The number of Louisiana residents signing up for health insurance through the federal marketplace is growing, reaching nearly 46,000 people covered through February. But that remains behind a target set last year by President Barack Obama's administration, seeking more than 75,000 enrollees in Louisiana, The Associated Press reports. The enrollment period ends this month. Federal health officials released the latest enrollment data for states today, covering five months of sign-ups under the government-subsidized private insurance program created under Obama's health overhaul. Another 12,700 people in Louisiana signed up in February, on top of the nearly 33,000 who were enrolled in marketplace plans a month earlier. Four companies are offering insurance options through the federally run marketplace in Louisiana. Eighty-seven percent of Louisiana residents who registered for insurance have received subsidies to help cover costs.

'225 Dine': Restaurants sign on to initiative aimed at healthier kids' menus

An effort within Mayor Kip Holden's Healthy BR initiative is gaining steam to address childhood obesity as more and more families dine out. As 225 Dine reports, the Eat Healthy BR program is seeking partnerships with city restaurants in an effort to bring healthier options to Baton Rouge residents who dine out with their children. So far, 13 restaurants—including MJ's Café, Nino's, The Little Village, Mestizo and others—are working with Eat Healthy BR to provide milk and water as drink options and a fruit and vegetable side option for all kids' meals. Nutritionist and Baton Rouge Dietetic Association representative Melissa Martin says having access to fruits, vegetables and healthier options is key to a positive, citywide change. "So many families don't cook at home anymore," she says. "By not having access to fruits or vegetables, that child may not get a balanced diet. We want to give children that opportunity and access to achieve that balanced diet when...

A real workout

Donnie Jarreau has been in the local fitness business since high school, starting out with Foxy's in 1979. He opened Wallbanger Fitness Center in 1984 and then founded Spectrum Fitness Clubs at the age of 31.

'225': LSU grad boosting teenage self-esteem in B.R.

When Sarah Brown was crowned Miss Jackson State University, she turned her back on a lucrative career in astrophysics and discovered a hidden passion for public service. At Jackson State, she started a youth outreach program and continued to do so even as she came to Baton Rouge to pursue a master's degree in public administration at LSU. Though she is only one semester into the program, Brown has already decided to complete an optional master's degree project, focusing on young girls in public high schools, and her work is the subject of a profile piece in the March issue of 225. Her Baton Rouge project focuses on building self-esteem in the young women enrolled at Career Academy High School, where assistant principal Mandy LaCerte cites low self-esteem as the most common hindrance in the school's female students. The first time LaCerte saw Brown in action was a wake-up call, and the assistant principal says she has already seen a difference in the girls. "I think what...

Planned Parenthood gets clean audit from La.

Planned Parenthood in Louisiana has complied with laws that ban public funds from being used to pay for abortions or to encourage abortions, according to an audit released today. The Associated Press reports that Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office conducted the review in response to requests from the state House and Senate during last year's legislative session. Auditors looked at $641,874 in Medicaid payments made by the state Department of Health and Hospitals to Planned Parenthood during 2012 for nearly 26,000 health services claims, covering 7,677 people. The review says payments were made for allowable family planning services. "We found no indication that Planned Parenthood had recommended that a patient have an abortion or had performed an abortion for the patients in our sample," auditors wrote. State law prohibits the use of public funds for abortions except to save the life of the mother or in instances of rape or incest. Jewel Bush, a Louisiana spokeswoman for...

Amedisys founder to step down as CEO, stay on as chairman emeritus

Bill Borne, who in 1982 founded a small business in Baton Rouge that has since grown into Amedisys—one of the leading home health and hospice firms in the country, with more than 360,000 patients served annually—is stepping down as CEO, board chairman and director. While Borne will now serve as chairman emeritus of the company's board of directors, the Amedisys board has named president and CFO Ronald LaBorde as interim CEO while a national search for a permanent CEO is conducted. "It's never easy to see a founder leave, yet it's not uncommon," says board director David Pitts, who along with Donald Washburn, lead director, will now lead the board as non-executive board co-chairmen. "Bill had the vision, drive and compassion to build an incredible company that at its core is focused on helping chronically ill patients and their families during their greatest times of need. We thank Bill for his leadership and wish him the best." Amedisys announced the moves this morning...

News alert: Amedisys founder Bill Borne stepping down as CEO

More than three decades after founding the company that has grown into Amedisys—one of the nation's leading home health and hospice firms—Bill Borne is stepping down as the company's CEO, board chairman and director. Amedisys announced the move this morning, saying Borne will become chairman emeritus. Meanwhile, the Amedisys board of directors has named president and CFO Ronald LaBorde as interim CEO while a national search for a permanent CEO is being conducted. The board has also named Donald Washburn, lead director, and David Pitts, director, as non-executive board co-chairmen. Read Daily Report AM for more details.

'225': Locals go 'Paleo'

Allie Griffin is a Baton Rouge native who played volleyball at the University of Colorado then played professionally around the world before recently settling back in Baton Rouge. Today, she's a local artist and fitness enthusiast who practices the Paleo lifestyle, which involves eating a diet worthy of our Paleolithic ancestors and cutting out all forms of milk, wheat, beans, potatoes, corn and rice. The diet cuts out "anything that would, historically, not have been hunted or gathered," Amy Alexander writes in a feature on the Paleo lifestyle from the the current issue of 225. What's left on the menu is grass-fed meats, many vegetables and water. "It's a really easy diet," Griffin says. "You know what your no's are, and you know what your yes's are." Avid Paleo lifestyle practitioners have also been coupling their diet with CrossFit workouts to strengthen and stretch the entire body. However, even those who combine the diet and workout make a point of binging once in a blue...

'Business Report': Is B.R.'s growing health care industry ready for the next level?

While health care is growing throughout the region, the real critical mass is in south Baton Rouge along Bluebonnet Boulevard and Essen Lane. The city-parish's master plan, FuturEBR, recognizes this and identifies the medical corridor as one of six targeted growth areas. "It's one of the real opportunities from Baton Rouge to really plan a big, giant economic engine," FuturEBR lead planner John Fregonese tells Business Report for its new cover story on the local health care industry, its growth and prospects for the future. Right now, the "South Baton Rouge Medical District" is little more than a vague concept, though more details will emerge over the next year or so. Business Report spoke with consultants, stakeholders and outside experts to get an idea of what some of the goals might be, what challenges might need to be worked through, and whether this is even a good idea in the first place. "Health care and research are economic development and intellectual drivers...

Pennington announces new physical activity study

Pennington Biomedical Research Center is conducting a new clinical trial to compare the effects of physical activity and lifestyle changes on energy balance and how these changes may impact an individual's body composition. The study, called E-MECHANIC: Examination of Mechanisms of Exercise-Induced Weight Compensation, is open to adults ages 18 to 65 who aren't currently involved in a structured exercise program. The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health. The co-principal investigators are Timothy S. Church, professor and director of the Preventive Medicine Laboratory, and Corby Martin, associate professor and director of Behavioral Science and Epidemiology. Both work at Pennington. E-MECHANIC will examine how three exercise programs can affect changes in a person's body and influence overall health. Participants will complete a six-month exercise intervention at the Pennington Biomedical Fitness Center. "This innovative study will help us learn how exercise affects...

Chuck Decker

AGE: 60
The Franchisee: After successive careers in the military and law enforcement, Chuck Decker started a fitness franchise to combat stats that say a majority of former policemen die soon after retiring.
The Franchise: A former professional racquetball player started a Minnesota-based franchise with the vision of creating a convenient and affordable place to exercise 24 hours a day. Snap Fitness now has more than 1,400 locations worldwide, with 16 in the greater Baton Rouge area.

Medical city?

Health care isn't just about treating sick people. It's also about jobs and money. Take a drive around the Baton Rouge area, and you'll find that's as true here as anywhere else in the country.

Making the leap

Six years ago, Deneb Warner and Erin Warner were happy and comfortable in their mortgage banking careers.

Paul A. Salles

Since Jan. 1, the Louisiana Hospital Association has as its top executive an industry veteran with lifelong ties to the state. For more than a decade Salles has been involved with LHA, which, he says, "works closely with its board and membership to support the hospital industry through advocacy, education and services." Formerly the group's executive vice president—a position he held while also leading the Metropolitan Hospital Council of New Orleans—Salles says he "directed the development of health care policy and reimbursement initiatives on behalf of hospitals in Louisiana, and directed and participated in various political activities at the state and national levels." Beginning his tenure as president and CEO during a period of industry reform, Salles notes that LHA will play "an increasingly important role" in quality and performance improvement, on one hand, and information and data capabilities, on the other. Regarding the latter he notes: "To keep up with the...

Clarity Hospice to open inpatient facility in B.R.

Clarity Hospice of Baton Rouge is planning to open its first inpatient facility at 9191 Bluebonnet Blvd. within the next month and a half, says owner Michael Cassidy. The 14,000-square-foot, 16-bed facility will be called The Crossing at Clarity Hospice. Cassidy says Clarity purchased The Crossing's location three years ago due to its close proximity to the south Baton Rouge medical corridor and spent the following three years researching how to improve services. In addition to the accommodations typically offered at inpatient centers, The Crossing will include pediatrics, bariatric rooms and an isolation room. There are two other inpatient hospice facilities in Baton Rouge—one at Baton Rouge General in Mid City and one on Airline Highway at Jefferson Highway. —Rachel Alexander

Health insurance sign-ups near 33,000 in La.

The number of Louisianans who signed up for health insurance plans through the federal online marketplace has nearly doubled over the past month. Federal health officials released the latest enrollment data today, showing that nearly 33,000 people in the state had selected a coverage plan by the end of January. That's up from about 17,500 people a month earlier who had enrolled for the government-subsidized private insurance created under President Barack Obama's health overhaul. Even as more people are signed up for coverage, however, the enrollment demographics stayed largely the same in Louisiana. More women have signed up than men, and nearly one-third of those getting insurance are in the older, costlier age ranges of 55 to 64 years old. Nationwide, the Obama administration says about 1 million people signed up for private insurance under the health law in January, extending a turnaround from the early days of the program when a dysfunctional website frustrated consumers. The...

'Business Report': Client satisfaction an emerging focus in local health care

Rapid changes in the U.S. health care system seem to be sending the anxiety level of many existing and potential patients into the stratosphere, but medical professionals tell Business Report one facet of the system consumers should feel good about is an increasing focus on customer service. Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers around the country are beefing up efforts to improve patient satisfaction with their care. It's not just a question of whether patients believe they have received the proper medical treatment, but also whether the individuals who delivered their care did so with an appropriate level of respect and sensitivity. Those who enter hospitals or visit clinics today are increasingly likely to encounter a level of "hand-holding" they have not experienced in a medical setting. During an outpatient visit, for instance, a clinic staff member may be assigned to escort a patient to an exam room, explain what to expect during the visit or procedure and...

Tea party group seeks lawmakers' pledges against Medicaid expansion

A national tea party group organizing in Louisiana is asking lawmakers to pledge their opposition to Democrats' efforts to expand the state Medicaid program under President Barack Obama's health care law. Americans for Prosperity is sending the pledge request to all 144 state lawmakers this week, hoping to shore up opposition to Medicaid expansion bills before the legislative session that begins in March, says Phillip Joffrion, director of the AFP state chapter. "We want our legislators to tell their constituents that they're going to go to Baton Rouge on March 10 and fight Medicaid expansion and the furthering of Obamacare in Louisiana," Joffrion tells The Associated Press. The organization, a conservative group founded with the support of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, also plans events across seven Louisiana cities starting next week to outline its opposition to the expansion of the government-subsidized health insurance program. The Legislature rejected an expansion...

Obama administration targets 25 metro areas to boost health care enrollment

With the deadline to sign up for President Barack Obama's new health care law nearing, millions of uninsured Americans are still needed to give the law a chance of working effectively, by most economic estimates. But The Associated Press reports it may not be so hard for the administration and its allies to find the enrollees it needs. A study conducted for The AP finds that the uninsured aren't scattered evenly across the country: Half of them live in just 116 of the nation's 3,143 counties. That means outreach targeted to select areas can pay off big, reaching millions of prospective customers needed to stabilize the law's new insurance markets. The pattern also holds true for the younger uninsured, the health care overhaul's most coveted demographic. The study found that half of uninsured people ages 19-39 live in 108 counties. Their premiums are needed to offset the cost of care for older adults. With most of the bugs out of the HealthCare.gov website, the Obama administration is...

Civil Service panel OKs LSU hospital privatization

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration received the backing today of the state's human resources agency for the privatization of the LSU hospital in Bogalusa, which will cause the layoff of an estimated 540 state workers. The Associated Press reports the Civil Service Commission voted 6-1 to approve the deal, after hearing estimates from state health officials that the contract will save the state $10 million this year. It was the final approval needed before oversight of LSU's Bogalusa Medical Center could be transferred March 17 to the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, which operates four private hospitals in Louisiana. LSU Health Care Services Division Deputy CEO Lanette Buie says all Bogalusa hospital workers have been offered jobs with the private hospital manager, adding she expects 99% of them to be hired. However, she acknowledges they won't necessarily receive the same levels of pay and benefits they got from LSU. Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has struck...

DHH rescinds new La. abortion rules

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration announced Monday night that it's scrapping rewritten licensing regulations for abortion clinics that abortion rights supporters had said would force all five of the state's clinics to shut down. The Associated Press reports the Department of Health and Hospitals says it will rewrite the regulations on a later, unspecified date. "We withdrew the rules and the emergency rule in order to correct the language governing the licensure of outpatient abortion facilities before proceeding," DHH spokeswoman Olivia Watkins says in an emailed statement to The AP on Monday night. "We intend to issue a new set of proposed rules with a notice of intent in the future for public comment." DHH had planned a hearing today about the proposed standards, but had faced loud criticism about the new requirements. Ellie Schilling, a New Orleans lawyer advising the state's abortion clinics, maintains the new rules seemed aimed at making it impossible for clinics to comply,...

Patients as customers

Rapid changes in the U.S. health care system seem to be sending the anxiety level of many existing and potential patients into the stratosphere, but medical professionals say one facet of the system consumers should feel good about is an increasing focus on customer service.

New medical center to open next week in north B.R.

Champion Medical Center, a new specialized surgical hospital, is set to open on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 7855 Howell Blvd., in the 25,000-square-foot space that formerly housed Greater Baton Rouge Surgical Hospital, which closed a little over a year ago. CEO Robert Cathey says the hospital will "focus on clinical excellence, elevated patient care, individualized nursing care, and custom meals." Partnering with local surgeons and medical staff, Champion will specialize in spine health, orthopedic and sports management, pain management, foot and ankle surgery, gastroenterology, and breast reconstruction. The hospital has about 12 medical staff currently, Cathey says, but the goal is to increase that number to 20 to 30. Overall, Champion expects to bring 50 new jobs to the Baton Rouge community. Champion is leasing the north Baton Rouge hospital space from Dallas-based Cambridge Healthcare Management, Inc. The facility includes 11 patient rooms—five of which are private and three of...

News roundup: B.R. firm partners with national dental insurance carrier … Holden meeting with Obama at White House … DOTD prepared for wintry weather, icy roads

All together now: Baton Rouge-based LocalMed is partnering with leading national dental insurance carrier United Concordia Dental in a deal that will expand the reach of LocalMed's technology, which allows people to find and schedule dental appointments online, anytime. "Partnering with United Concordia means bringing convenience to patients and a much more efficient office to their participating providers," says LocalMed CEO Keith English in a prepared statement. United Concordia Dental is one of the nation's largest dental insurers with more than 98,700 dentists and over 6 million members. LocalMed was formally launched in December 2012 by twin brothers Daniel and Derek Gilbert.

Pennington launches childhood obesity and diabetes research program

Gov. Bobby Jindal joined officials at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center today as they opened a new front in the battle on childhood obesity with announcement of the Childhood Obesity and Diabetes Research Program and the opening of a newly renovated space on the campus off Perkins Road for the program's activities. The state provided $6.4 million in funding for the renovated facilities—part research lab and part education center—called the Translational Research Clinic for Children, or TReCC for short. Researchers at the facility will explore new ways of preventing, treating and managing childhood obesity. "The funding for the TReCC has allowed Pennington Biomedical to retain 19 direct jobs for pediatric studies, and the investments are expected to create more jobs in the future as grants are obtained," the governor's office says in a statement released today. "This investment in Pennington Biomedical is not only an investment in research; it is a continued...

TEDxLSU announces speakers

TEDxLSU returns this March for its second go-round and organizers announced today six of the 16 speakers slated to give "the talk of their lives" in Baton Rouge.

No decision yet from federal regulators on LSU hospital deals

Though most of LSU's charity hospitals and clinics have been turned over to private managers, federal officials still haven't decided whether they'll agree to the financing plans that are being used to pay the new hospital operators. The Associated Press reports Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration expresses confidence that the deals will eventually gain approval from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS, but says that these types of complex arrangements take time. CMS isn't talking about how far apart the two sides are in negotiating final terms. Privatization deals have taken effect for seven university hospitals and their clinics, with two more pending. They are pushed by Jindal as a way to cut state costs, improve care for the poor and uninsured, and bolster medical training programs. The deals are costing the state $1.1 billion this budget year, much of it paid with federal health care dollars. But only one contractual arrangement has received...

La. falls to No. 42 in latest national rankings for emergency care

Although the state received a favorable ranking for disaster preparedness, at No. 3 nationally, Louisiana is ranked No. 42 nationally for its overall emergency care in the latest report card from the American College of Emergency Physicians. The country as a whole didn't fare too well in the report, which graded emergency care in the U.S. a D+. In 2009, the last time ACEP's report card was issued, America earned an overall grade of C-. Louisiana was given a D+ grade in 2009—when its emergency care was ranked No. 36 overall—and a D in the new report. All states and the District of Columbia are ranked based on their performance in five categories: access to emergency care, quality and patient safety environment, medical liability environment, public health and injury prevention, and disaster preparedness. Louisiana's best ranking came in the disaster preparedness category, while it ranked No. 49 in the safety environment category, No. 45 for public health and injury...

La. chapter of national group to fight Medicaid expansion

The newly formed Louisiana chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political group founded with the support of the billionaire Koch brothers, plans to be "engaged at all levels" of government, says chapter director Phillip Joffrion. It's the 35th state chapter of AFP, he says. Joffrion says his group will fight the Obamacare expansion of Medicaid in Louisiana, which he says has the potential to "destroy this country from the bottom up." Supporters of the expansion have pledged to raise the Medicaid issue again at this year's legislative session. Joffrion says AFP Louisiana also will look for opportunities to support tort reform and will oppose any effort to raise taxes. He says AFP's "vast resources can help organize the grassroots across the state," though the group does not endorse specific candidates. Joffrion spoke today at a luncheon hosted by the Republican Party...

Medicaid expansion debate to resume in La.

Efforts to provide government-subsidized health insurance to thousands through an expansion of Louisiana's Medicaid program will again be pushed in the upcoming legislative session. Former Louisiana health secretary David Hood, who addressed the Baton Rouge Press Club today, says he'll be involved with a coalition of Medicaid expansion supporters seeking to persuade state lawmakers who rejected the idea last year. Hood acknowledges that chances of getting the bill to passage are slim because of strong opposition from Republicans, in particular Gov. Bobby Jindal, but adds its a fight worth taking on. "We do seem to be stuck here in Louisiana … but we're not giving up," Hood says. "We're passing up an opportunity here to do something that would be very good for our people; it would be good for business; it would be good all around, quite frankly." The Medicaid expansion would be paid for with dollars approved under President Barack Obama's health law. The federal government would...

Publisher: LSU Health partnerships get results

As a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister says, he recently heard "success story after success story" on the partnerships between LSU Health and a number of community partner hospitals across the state. "The output, the energy, the innovation and cooperation I learned about were very encouraging," McCollister writes in his latest column. "So I read with interest The Advocate editorial on Dec. 29, 'New doubts on a rush job.'" The editorial likened the partnerships to "major surgery performed in a rush," and went on to state: "In an atmosphere of financial crisis, Gov. Bobby Jindal and the LSU Board of Supervisors pushed through major lease-purchase deals that privatized most of the network of hospitals and clinics that Louisiana's working poor have depended on for decades." McCollister acknowledges the system has been around since the 1930s, when it was created under Gov. Huey Long, but notes it was "the very last statewide...

John Matessino

"It takes courage to be the CEO. The chairman of my board once told me there are three kinds of decisions you can make. You can make the right decision. You can make the wrong decision, and that's OK, because once you realize you didn't make the right decision, you can always recover from that, and correct it and learn from it. The worst decision you can make is no decision. There is no recovery from indecision."

LSU Health partnerships get results

As a member of the LSU Board of Supervisors, I recently heard success story after success story on the partnerships between LSU Health and our community partner hospitals. The output, the energy, the innovation and cooperation I learned about were very encouraging.

Mary Kathryn Rodrigue

Occupation: Founder, The Wellness Studio, The Drew Rodrigue Foundation and Young Adults Taking a Stand Against Cancer
Hometown: New Orleans
Age: 30

Dr. William Cefalu

Occupation: Executive Director, Pennington Biomedical & Research Center
Hometown: Amite
Age: 59

'225': Jacob Savoie's fight with encephalitis

Jacob Savoie's life came to a halt in 2007. While in his senior year at LSU, he missed class due to the sudden onset of sever flu-like symptoms, which eventually sent him to the emergency room. The former waiter at Sullivan's Steakhouse dealt with blurred vision and interval migraines and was later diagnosed with encephalitis, "a severe disease that, when it doesn't kill you, seriously messes with your mind," Lauren Brown writes in the latest issue of 225. Savoie's younger brother, Jonathan, says the illness affected his brother's speech and communication: "Internally, he knew what he wanted to say, but [Jacob] couldn't express it verbally. When asked about the names of everyday items, he would not only call an item by the wrong name but sometimes forget the word entirely." Tom Solomon, a professor at the University of Liverpool and member of The Encephalitis Society Professional Panel, says the illness can be devastating. "Approximately 10% of patients die, and typically 50%...

Obamacare hits snag in states while U.S. site begins to find footing

From Maryland to Hawaii, Obamacare's state-run enrollment operations are running into technical difficulties, creating new headaches for the White House even as the federal insurance website finds its footing. Bloomberg reports that while the U.S. site has seen volumes surge this month, online exchanges run by those two states, along with systems in Massachusetts and Oregon, have struggled with technological delays and low sign-up levels. All but Massachusetts have replaced their top executives this month. The stumbles threaten to undercut one of the few arguments favoring President Barack Obama's health care overhaul so far: its relatively smooth rollout in states that set up their own enrollment systems. While states such as California and New York remain bright spots, the administration can't afford many more setbacks in the fight over the law. "Some of these states have been committed, but it's just been hurdle after hurdle after hurdle," says Heather Howard, program director at...

Going corporate

Some of the most powerful drugs in medicine are used to fight cancer. Millions of lives are saved or extended through chemotherapies that employ some of the most expensive drugs in the world.

PAR report says LSU hospital deals may face financial woes

The current financing structure for Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization deals for the LSU network of hospitals and clinics is risky and may run into shortfalls within five years, according to a nonpartisan report released today. The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, a policy research organization known as PAR, reviewed the contracts that are turning over university-run hospitals, clinics and services around the state to private managers. The deals cost the state $1.1 billion this year. The new hospital managers, most of which are companies that run other private hospitals, pay to lease LSU facilities and get reimbursement from the state for the care they provide. Seven of nine privatization deals have taken effect so far. Jindal describes the privatization as a cost-cutting move that will save the state more than $100 million in its operating budget this year alone while...

Health care website problems may trigger price hikes

Problems with the government's main health care overhaul website carry a bigger risk than frequent crashes: Higher prices could follow for many Americans if technical troubles scare off young people. The government has touted recent improvements to HeathCare.gov, which millions of Americans are expected to use to sign up for coverage. But, as The Associated Press reports, enrollment still lags far behind projections, and that has triggered worries that legions of potential customers in their 20s and 30s might not sign up. If that happens—and older, sicker people continue to register in larger numbers—insurers might have to raise future prices to address the imbalance. Though the chance of an age imbalance has loomed since the health care overhaul became law in 2009, it has become more worrisome since the website made its glitch-plagued debut in October. Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini said then that it was "incredibly important" to get the site running properly...

La. insurance enrollments rise to about 2,200

The number of Louisiana residents who have been able to sign up for health insurance through the federally run online marketplace is edging up, with nearly 2,200 people enrolled, The Associated Press reports. That's after two months of open enrollment through the problem-plagued website. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released enrollment figures through the end of November, showing about 137,000 people had completed the full process to get coverage across the 36 states using the federal website. In Louisiana, 2,193 people had made it through the site and selected an insurance plan by Nov. 30. That's more than five times as many people as were signed up in October, but it's still slower than the expected enrollment pace. The AP has more details on insurance enrollment figures nationwide.

La. improves one spot to No. 48 on 2013 America's Health Rankings

Americans are making considerable progress in their overall health, according to United Health Foundation's latest edition of its annual America's Health Rankings, and Louisiana is also progressing—though there's much room for further improvement. Louisiana's overall ranking in the just-released 2013 report is No. 48, up one spot from last year. Two years ago, Louisiana was ranked the nation's most unhealthy state in the report. That unenviable distinction goes to Mississippi this year. This year's report says Louisiana's strengths include a small disparity in health status by education attainment, high immunization coverage among adolescents and low incidence of respiratory pertussis infections. The state's most pressing health challenges, the report says, are its high prevalence of physical inactivity, obesity and diabetes; high percentage of impoverished children; high infant mortality rate; and high prevalence of low birth weight. Hawaii is ranked as the nation's healthiest...

Regenerating TransGenRx

The title of the Oct. 14, 2003, Business Report cover story was no doubt designed to grab attention.

Pennington gets $15.5 million grant for military readiness research

The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a pair of military research and health promotion grants collectively valued at nearly $15.5 million to Pennington Biomedical Research Center, officials announced today. One of the grants is for $7.3 million and is called CROWN 2, while the other is for $8.2 million and is called Weights, Measurements, and Standards for Soldiers 2. The CROWN 2 grant will be used to develop novel nutritional strategies to promote soldiers' health and resilience, improve combat readiness and sustain performance. The research will provide the scientific evidence basis for developing new combat rations, food products and dining facility menus, as well as health promotion policies and programs for soldiers. The CROWN 2 research will begin next year and be conducted through 2017. The $8.2 million grant is for a six-year study, which began in 2010 and will conclude in 2016, aiming to ensure the health, readiness, performance and resilience of soldiers via nutrition...

La. insurance commissioner says health care fix 'half-baked'

Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon believes health care in America needs to be overhauled, but he says the Affordable Care Act of 2010 is not the answer. Speaking on Tuesday to a Rotary club in West Monroe, Donelon—who is also head of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners—said: "The system is broke and has to be fixed. It can't be sustained on the course it is presently on. We can't afford it. But this fix was rolled out, in my words, half-baked." Donelon said two versions of the Affordable Care Act were being discussed when U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., died in August 2009 and Democrats lost that Senate seat. Normally those versions go into committee and the law is tweaked to fix problems and then released as one bill. Because Democrats feared a filibuster, Donelon said, "they rushed into law this half-baked, unfinished, unread product that we are now dealing with three years later. This fix may be worse than the broken system was before." He...

People's Health to open second Primary Care Plus in Baton Rouge

People's Health began construction last week on its second Primary Care Plus location in Baton Rouge at 7049 Perkins Road, which it plans to open by April 1, says People's Health Vice President of Clinic Operations Jeff Friedman. The construction project will cost approximately $1.7 million and include complete interior and exterior renovation of the Perkins Road space it will occupy, which formerly housed a Gulf Coast Research center. "The building will have about a 9,000-square-foot primary care and specialty clinic, and a 3,000-square-foot People's Health service center," Friedman says. The clinic will see patients from all insurance companies. While People's Health also operates a Primary Care Plus location on the Ochsner Medical Center campus off Interstate 12, Friedman says the service center is the first of its kind in Baton...

Kim Bowman

Bella Bowman only spent eight years on this Earth, but her impact will be felt for many years to come. Her mother, Kim, wouldn't have it any other way.

Annette Barton

An unruly horse gave Annette Barton a memorable encounter with what she now calls Baton Rouge's "community hospital."

Kristy Andries

Kristy Andries often says her entire family was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes on August 25, 2001. That was the day she learned her 17-year-old son, Bradley, had the disease.

Jindal: Problem with Obamacare is the design, not the execution

Gov. Bobby Jindal says the problems the nation is confronting with the rollout of the healthcare.gov website is a result of the past two years, during which "Obama and leftwing radicals ran wild." But Jindal also says in a new guest column that Obamacare—which he refers to as "a new federal entitlement program leading to government-run health care"—is flawed by design, not execution. "We're now starting to see the fruits of this disastrous policy in a website filled with glitches," Jindal writes. "But eventually they will fix the website. They will call in someone who invented the Internet, like Al Gore, and get it fixed. The website is merely the tip of the iceberg." Jindal refers to the estimated 92,000 people in Louisiana who are in jeopardy of losing their health care plan due to Obamacare, despite the fact that Obama said they would not. "That turned out to be false," Jindal says. "Let me put that in insurance terms. The President made a commitment. He got what he...

Problem with Obamacare is the design, not the execution

Editor's note: This column was provided to Daily Report by the Office of Governor Bobby Jindal.

Audit says La. lax in its oversight of WIC program

A new audit says Louisiana's public health office has done a poor job of monitoring a federal nutrition program that provides food to poor women and children. The Associated Press reports Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office reviewed the Office of Public Health's administration of the program known as WIC. The audit says OPH didn't verify grocery prices charged through the program, overpaid for food, didn't follow regulations governing the program and often didn't sanction vendors for unsanitary conditions in stores or expired products on shelves. The Department of Health and Hospitals, which oversees OPH, requested the review of the program, which cost $126 million in the 2012 fiscal year. OPH uses self-reported sales data and store location information to assign vendors to seven different tiers dictating what prices vendors can charge for WIC foods. The audit says OPH assigned 43% of WIC vendors to an incorrect tier. "As a result," the audit says, "vendors may have...

Project to create South Baton Rouge Medical District beginning soon

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is close to hiring a consultant team that would help East Baton Rouge Parish create a South Baton Rouge Medical District. As first laid out in broad strokes in FuturEBR, the city-parish master plan, officials hope to leverage the Bluebonnet/Perkins/Essen medical corridor as an economic driver and an important part of the city's brand. A consultant would create a plan for "attracting and retaining top-tier healthcare professionals, providing a dynamic community in which all may live and work, expanding and improving transit options serving the area, and coordinating diverse stakeholders around a shared vision of growth and economic development," according to the request for proposals. While each health care institution has its own internal plans and structure, the RFP says, they could benefit from a governance mechanism that identifies opportunities to collaborate and access tax incentives. Three finalists were interviewed last week, and representatives...

Obama meets with health insurance CEOs

President Obama met with a group of health insurance CEOs today to discuss the transition to new rules under Obamacare. "We want to make sure Americans have good solid coverage," the president told reporters as aides and the insurance executives sat around him. The meeting came a day after Obama—amid criticism from lawmakers as well as people who have had their insurance policies canceled—announced that companies can continue providing coverage for a year under policies that don't meet new requirements of Obamacare. Insurance brokers, regulators and carriers tell USA Today that Obama's announcement could cause chaos because they have been making plans based on legal demands that took effect Oct. 1. White House spokesman Jay Carney says Obama and others will "talk about ways we can work together to help people enroll through the marketplace and efforts we can make to minimize disruption." The president's guests at today's meeting included CEOs of Cigna, Aetna,...

Council OK's naming bridge in honor of Trevor Sims

The North Boulevard Overpass will soon be renamed the Trevor J. Sims Memorial Bridge in honor of the 11-year-old Baton Rouge boy who recently passed away after a long battle with cancer, but not before inspiring his entire community to take up a week-long effort to help the homeless and poor. The council unanimously approved naming the bridge in Sims' honor on Wednesday. Councilwoman Tara Wicker, who sponsored the resolution, noted that the bridge that will bear Sims' name was once a popular refuge for the local homeless population. "In Trevor's 11 short years on Earth, I believe he made more of an impact in those short years than most people in a lifetime," Wicker said. Sims died on Oct. 16, just four days after celebrating his 11th birthday. Councilman Buddy Amoroso urged his fellow councilmembers to ensure a plaque is also put on the bridge "so people hundreds of years from now will know what he's done." —Staff report

Obama bows to mounting pressure, makes changes to health care law

Bowing to pressure, President Barack Obama addressed the nation today and announced changes to his health care law to give insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled. "This fix won't solve every problem for every person, but it's going to help a lot of people," the president said. Acknowledging that "we fumbled the rollout of this health care law," Obama also pledged to "just keep on chipping away at this until the job is done" and promised to work to regain the trust of the American people. "I think it's legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular and on a whole range of these issues in general," he said. Obama has been under enormous pressure from congressional Democrats to give ground on the cancellation issue under the health care overhaul, a program likely to be at the center of next year's midterm elections for control of the House and Senate.

In La., 387 health insurance sign-ups completed in October

Fewer than 400 Louisiana residents were able to sign up for health insurance last month through the federally run online marketplace created under President Barack Obama's health revamp, The Associated Press reports. The 387 Louisianans who managed to sign up on Healthcare.gov in October were among approximately 27,000 people who successfully signed up for insurance during the month from the 36 states relying on the problem-filled federal website for President Barack Obama's overhaul. Website problems left many people unable to enroll for coverage despite repeated attempts. Federal health officials released enrollment figures today for October. The figures show more than 7,700 people in Louisiana have filled out applications so far seeking coverage for themselves and their families. The numbers released today by federal health officials were even lower than estimates recently circulated. There was one bright spot, however: States running their own websites did better than the feds,...

U.S. could look to Japan for some health care answers, Fraiche says

Following a recent visit to Japan as the Honorary Consul-General of Japan for New Orleans, health care lawyer Donna Fraiche says one of the best aspects of Japan's universal health care system from which the U.S. can learn is the holistic way in which the family is involved in health care delivery. From indoor playgrounds in some facilities to kitchens in patient rooms, typical amenities in Japanese hospitals invite all members of the family to support the patient through the hospital stay, the duration of which is not limited as it is here, Fraiche says. According to Bloomberg's 2013 ranking of countries by health care efficiency—which is based on life expectancy and per capita cost—Japan ranks third out of the 48 most advanced economies. The U.S. ranks 46th. Fraiche, who spoke to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge today, laid out some of the differences she...

LHA the latest major association to lose a longtime leader

The Louisiana Hospital Association on Monday became the second major state industry association and powerful lobbying force to announce a leadership change in recent months. LHA has tapped Paul A. Salles to take over as new president and CEO of the association beginning next year. Salles will replace current LHA President and CEO John Matessino, who has held the position for 33 years. When former LABI President Dan Juneau left that association in mid September, he had been at the helm there since 1989. Stephen Waguespack, who formerly served six years in Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, departing in 2010 as chief of staff, has since taken Juneau's place. Salles is currently executive vice president of the LHA and president and CEO of the Metropolitan Hospital Council of New Orleans. In his new role, Salles will work closely with the LHA board and membership on the development and implementation of the strategic vision and plan for the association, according to a news release...

Insurers press for way around Heathcare.gov

Some major health insurers are so worried about the Obama administration's ability to fix its troubled health care website that they are pushing the government to create a shortcut that would allow them to enroll people entitled to subsidies directly rather than through the federal system. The New York Times reports the idea is only one of several being discussed in a frantic effort to find a way around the technological problems that teams of experts are urgently trying to resolve. So far, the administration has resisted the idea, partly because of concerns about giving insurance companies access to personal data. People familiar with the matter said no such modifications are planned, and even some insurers are not holding out much hope. But senior White House officials say the administration is open to ways in which insurers could handle more enrollments and has stepped up efforts to make that possible because of the technical problems with the site. Read

The ailing techster

For years, we've been warned about the electromagnetic radiation our cell phones emit.

Executive Spotlight: Robert Blair

Robert Blair can reel off the systemic problems that complicate his work as CEO of the NeuroMedical Center Surgical Hospital. As Blair tells Business Report for its latest Executive Spotlight, he expects the "ridiculous complexity" of the American health care system to increase with the rollout of Obamacare. Nevertheless, Blair says, he has the job of his dreams. Since his arrival at NCSH in April 2010, he says, "We have become much more efficient in almost every way"—laying emphasis on the team effort behind the changes. It's "exciting to watch," he says, as enhancements in admissions and marketing and electronic record-keeping have in turn given doctors what they need most: "more time to focus on their patients." And the physician-owned hospital under his watch has prospered, ranking No. 47 in Business Report's Top 100 list of private companies. Blair, 45, attributes its year-over-year growth to success in attracting talented physicians to join the partnership,...

Robert Blair

Robert Blair can reel off the systemic problems that complicate his work as CEO of the NeuroMedical Center Surgical Hospital. What he calls the "ridiculous complexity" of the American health care system he expects will increase with the rollout of Obamacare. Nevertheless, Blair has the job of his dreams. Since his arrival at NCSH in April 2010, he notes, "we have become much more efficient in almost every way"—laying emphasis on the team effort behind the changes. It's "exciting to watch," he says, as enhancements in admissions and marketing and electronic record keeping have in turn given doctors what they need most: "more time to focus on their patients." And the physician-owned hospital under his watch has prospered, ranking No. 47 in Business Report's Top 100 list of private companies. Blair, 45, attributes its year-over-year growth to success in attracting talented physicians to join the partnership, bringing expertise in various subspecialties. The president of Louisiana...

'225': Finding the balance in protecting children from chemicals

Though children's imaginations run wild with haunting tales of boogeymen and monsters in the closet, the things that keep today's parents awake at night are in items that many tote willingly into their homes. The list of such items is long and includes "cleaning supplies, children's toys, baby cribs, cereals, snack foods, shampoo and shower curtains," writes Amy Alexander in the November 225 cover story, titled "Generation Safe." In the story, Alexander interviews area parents about their concerns with inorganic dietary and environmental chemicals. Local mom and exercise physiologist Nicki Solomito Pugh has become a leader among locals who are keen to protect their children from such threats. Her advice? "I took it one thing at a time." Slowly, she eliminated and changed household items and ingredients. "The light bulb moment: Nutrition stopped being confined to food or drink that went into my body through my mouth, and it started including anything that went into my...

White House pushing Louisiana, Florida on Medicaid expansion

The Obama administration again called out states that have refused to expand Medicaid on Thursday, calling it a "reckless" play to undercut Obamacare at the expense of their constituents' health. Politico reports the White House held a conference call featuring officials in Louisiana and Florida who made the case for expanding the program and attacked those holding it up. President Barack Obama is in New Orleans today to tout an economic agenda, and he'll be in Florida Saturday to do the same. Politico surmises the White House's calls to Louisiana and Florida officials Thursday "is part of a larger drive to draw attention to the states that have refused to cover low-income people—and away from the tidal wave of bad news about Americans whose health plans are being canceled." The administration will keep pressuring states on...

Planet Fitness to open second location at Siegen Village

Planet Fitness will open a second Baton Rouge location at 6900 Siegen Lane sometime in February, says general manager Al Devillier. The fitness center will occupy the space in Siegen Village formerly occupied by Stage. Devillier says the clothing store closed down about two months ago, and Planet Fitness' move was finalized this month. Planet Fitness is renovating the approximately 32,000-square-foot space at a projected cost of $500,000. "Basically the building is there, and not a lot of renovation inside is necessary except for putting in the locker rooms," says Devillier. "And we have to build some partitions for our tanning rooms, rooms for our massage chairs, rooms for our hydro massage beds, and a couple of rooms for our beauty angel booths." DK Mullin is doing the renovation, according to a permit application recently filed with the Department of Public Works. Planet Fitness opened a 28,000-square-foot facility as the anchor tenant of the redeveloped Broadmoor Village Shopping...

Woman's Hospital sells Colonial Drive office building

Dr. Pamela Shriver, a pediatric nurse practitioner, has bought a 7,900-square-foot office building and parking lot near the former Woman's Hospital campus on Airline Highway for $725,000. Shriver, who made the purchase as P.M. Smith Investment Property LLC, says the office at 781 Colonial Drive—just off Goodwood Boulevard and about three-fourths of a mile away from the former Woman's campus—is a good investment opportunity. She will continue to lease the space to Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group Pediatrics. Carmen Austin and Hank Saurage of Saurage Rotenberg Commercial Real Estate brokered the deal. Shriver purchased the building from the Woman's Hospital Foundation, which in July also finalized the sale of the former hospital campus for $10 million. The city-parish purchased the 24-acre campus and is in the midst of converting it into a public safety complex, including facilities for the Baton Rouge Police Department. —Rachel Alexander

LSU hospital privatization cuts retirement debt

The layoffs of thousands of LSU workers as part of Gov. Bobby Jindal's hospital privatization plan put a major dent in the state employee retirement system's debt, dropping it hundreds of millions of dollars, The Associated Press reports. Jindal has pushed to turn over the operations of nine LSU hospitals to private companies, saying it will improve health care for the uninsured and save the state money. Seven deals have taken effect, causing the layoffs of 7,751 state employees. Many of those laid-off workers have been rehired by the new hospital managers. Cindy Rougeou, executive director of the Louisiana State Employees' Retirement System, says cutting state employee rolls drops the future obligations of the system. Seventy-five percent of those who received pink slips weren't eligible to retire, and many of them have requested a refund of their retirement contributions. "Those who receive a refund have a positive gain on the system since they will no longer be eligible to receive...

Measure of U.S. economy's health rises 0.7%

A gauge of the U.S. economy's future health rose solidly in September, suggesting the economy was making gains before the government shut down for 16 days. The Conference Board reports this morning that its index of leading indicators rose 0.7% in September to a reading of 97.1. That follows a similar gain in August and marked the fifth increase in six months. The index is designed to signal economic conditions over the next three to six months. It is composed of 10 indicators, most of which have already been released individually. In September, the index rose largely because unemployment benefits fell, credit conditions improved, manufacturing orders rose and the gap between short- and long-term interest rates widened sharply. The Associated Press reports that some economists caution that the index has been a poor predictor of the economy's health in recent months, noting that stock prices have risen sharply this year, yet unemployment remains high, wages have barely kept pace with...

Louisiana Medicaid program has $50M budget gap

Louisiana's Medicaid program has a $50 million budget deficit that state health officials are asking lawmakers to close with more money, rather than cuts. The Associated Press reports the shortfall for the 2013-14 fiscal year that began July 1 was detailed in a financial update this week to the Legislature's joint budget committee from the Department of Health and Hospitals. The Medicaid forecast is due at the start of November each year. Despite the gap, DHH Undersecretary Jerry Phillips says he doesn't expect any cuts to fall on services or the health care providers who care for Medicaid patients. Instead, he says the department will ask lawmakers for dollars to close the hole in the spring legislative session. To avoid cuts, lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will need to come up with about $19 million in state cash, which can be used to draw down federal matching money to eliminate the deficit. "I believe that the Legislature working with the administration will be...

Donelon: Up to 90,000 Louisianans face canceled policies

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says at least 80,000 people in Louisiana won't be able to keep their current insurance coverage because of the federal health overhaul. Donelon says that he asked insurance companies doing business in Louisiana for a tally of how many customers had existing plans that can't continue under President Barack Obama's health care law. He tells The Associated Press at least 80,000 people will lose their current coverage. A few insurers haven't yet sent back a response, so Donelon says he expects the final figure to be about 90,000 people whose coverage is being canceled because the policies don't meet federal requirements. Donelon says most of the policies are for people who pay for their own insurance, rather than getting it through their workplace or some other group.

Audit: DHH paid $1.9M for Medicaid for dead people

Louisiana paid nearly $1.9 million last year through the state's privatized Medicaid programs for 1,727 people who were not receiving services because they had died, according to an audit released this morning. Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office looked at fees that the state Department of Health and Hospitals paid in the 2012-13 budget year for privatized Medicaid medical and behavioral health services. Purpera's office compared payments DHH made to the Medicaid program managers to lists of the deceased obtained through another DHH office, the vital records office. The auditors found that DHH paid $1.6 million to the five managed care organizations that oversee medical services for Medicaid patients through a program called Bayou Health. The review says DHH paid $258,000 to Magellan Health Services, the company managing addictive treatment and mental health services through the Medicaid program called the Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership. "Approximately 53 percent of...

OLOL preparing for Heart and Vascular Institute opening Monday

As area kids mocked scary goblins and ghosts for Halloween on Thursday, the Our Lady of the Lake Heart and Vascular Institute's (HVI) transport teams were busy taking a mock run at moving patients into the new tower on the hospital's Essen Lane campus. Donning purple, red, and blue sweat bands—one color for each team—and carrying iPhones that served as walkie-talkies, OLOL nurse educators, nurses, transporters, and respiratory technicians conducted trial runs moving the hospital's heart and vascular patients from the main hospital to the new HVI tower. The excitement in the air was palpable, but so too was the focus. The mock move on Thursday was one of the last steps of a yearlong preparation for the official move of as many as 100 patients, including patients from all ICU units but one, which will begin on Wednesday at 5:30 a.m. "We brought our move specialist on board almost a year ago so we could begin to think about all of the important components," says OLOL Chief...

Concerns raised about security of health website

Defending President Barack Obama's much-maligned health care overhaul in Congress, his top health official was confronted today with a government memo raising new security concerns about the trouble-prone website that consumers are using to enroll. The document, obtained by The Associated Press, shows that administration officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were concerned that a lack of testing posed a potentially "high" security risk for the HealthCare.gov website serving 36 states, including Louisiana. It was granted a temporary security certificate so it could operate. Security issues are a new concern for the troubled HealthCare.gov website. If they cannot be resolved, they could prove to be more serious than the long list of technical problems the administration is trying to address. "You accepted a risk on behalf of every user … that put their personal financial information at risk," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told Health and Human Services...

Whooping cough up in La., Texas, Ark., Okla.

Whooping cough has set a post-1960s record in Louisiana and things are worse in Texas, where nearly 2,900 cases have been reported, and Arkansas, where numbers are double those of a year ago, The Associated Press reports. Louisiana health officials are asking doctors to keep an eye out for new cases. Louisiana's state epidemiologist, Dr. Raoult Ratard, says the total of 169 confirmed and likely cases as of mid-October breaks a vaccination-era record of about 160, which was the total for all of last year. The disease starts like a cold, with sneezing and a congested or runny nose. Ratard says adults should get booster shots if they're going to be around a baby so they don't unknowingly spread the disease to those most likely to die from it. Five babies less than two months old have died of whooping cough this year in Louisiana and Texas.

GOP groups target Senate incumbents on health care

A Republican political group says it will spend more than $2 million in advertising in the coming weeks to tie Democratic Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina to the health care overhaul. Americans for Prosperity says it will spend $1.7 million in North Carolina and $500,000 in Louisiana during the next three weeks on television, radio and Internet ads critical of the two Democrats facing re-election next year. Republicans have several candidates competing in the primary in both states. Separately, a Republican super PAC says it plans to spend more than $300,000 on TV ads in Kentucky opposing Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. Matt Canter, deputy executive director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, says it’s "not a coincidence" that Americans for Prosperity—a group backed by the billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch—chose North Carolina and Louisiana to run its ads. "There's a sense that these races are...

No shutdown losers here

The president said there were no winners in the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis, but he just wasn't looking far enough—like to Louisiana politics, where, as in competition among children these days, everyone's a winner.

Doctors to parents: Limit kids' texts, tweets and online time

Doctors across the country are telling parents to limit their kids' tweeting and texting, and also advising that they keep smartphones and laptops out of bedrooms, The Associated Press reports. The recommendations are bound to prompt eye-rolling and LOLs from many teens, but an influential pediatricians group says parents need to know that unrestricted media use can have serious consequences. It's been linked with violence, cyberbullying, school woes, obesity, lack of sleep and a host of other problems. It's not a major cause of these troubles, but "many parents are clueless" about the profound impact media exposure can have on their children, says Dr. Victor Strasburger, lead author of the new American Academy of Pediatrics policy. "This is the 21st century and they need to get with it," says Strasburger, a University of New Mexico adolescent medicine specialist. The policy is aimed at all kids, including those who use smartphones, computers and other Internet-connected devices. It...

Healthcare.gov won't be fixed until end of November

The Obama administration said Friday it will take until the end of November for the new federal health insurance website to be fully fixed and that a private contracting firm would be managing the effort, The Washington Post reports. Jeffrey Zients, the consultant brought in by the Obama administration this week to assess the problems plaguing the online health insurance marketplace, said in a conference call that his team had discovered dozens of problems but the site is "fixable." Zients said the "front-end" problems related to performance and user experience had declined dramatically, with 90% of users able to get online and create accounts—a precursor to being able to apply for Medicaid or government subsidies and enroll in a health plan. But the system remained problematic for people after they created accounts, as they tried to view plans and rates and then enroll. At points, he said, the success rate has been so low that only three in 10 users have been able to...

More legal trouble for Affordable Care Act

If computer glitches are not enough of a problem, President Obama's health care law also has a legal glitch that critics say could cause it to unravel in more than half the nation, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Affordable Care Act proposes to make health insurance affordable to millions of low-income Americans by offering them tax credits to help cover the cost. To receive the credit, the law twice says they must buy insurance "through an exchange established by the state." But 36 states have decided against opening exchanges for now. Although the law permits the federal government to open exchanges instead, it does not say tax credits may be given to those who buy insurance through a federally run exchange. Critics of the law have seized on the glitch. They have filed four lawsuits that urge judges to rule the Obama administration must abide by the strict wording of the law, even if doing so dismantles it in nearly two-thirds of the states. And the Obama administration...

Vanda Gray

Vanda Gray is on the move.

Blue Cross dropping senior drug plan

Some 13,000 senior citizens in Louisiana were recently notified by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana that the insurance giant is dropping their prescription drug coverage at the end of the year. According to the letter, prescription drug coverage will end Dec. 31 and seniors enrolled in the plans will have to find new Medicare part D coverage. Members can join a new plan anytime between Oct. 15 and Feb. 28. "However, if you don't join a new drug plan by Dec. 31, you won't have prescription drug coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014," the letter states. In a statement released late this afternoon, BCBS says it decided to drop the coverage “after carefully evaluating its existing plans, networks and benefits along with the coming changes with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.” The company goes on...

Louisiana checking chlorine records in response to killer amoeba

State workers are checking the records of more than 80 water treatment systems that use the same disinfection process as two in opposite corners of Louisiana where a rare but deadly amoeba was found, to be sure all keep chlorine at recommended levels. But that's not enough, says state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-Chalmette, who represents St. Bernard Parish, where a 4-year-old boy apparently was infected by Naegleria fowleri. Morrell made his comments to The Associated Press after the amoeba was found more recently in treated water 250 miles away in northwestern DeSoto Parish. Chlorine levels in every parish and municipal water system statewide should be checked immediately and the current vague recommendations for a trace of chlorine should be changed to specific numbers, he says. "This public health issue has created concern and panic, and it has undermined public confidence in government's ability to perform one of its most basic functions—the delivery of safe drinking water...

La. residents slowly signing up for insurance

Insurance companies are seeing an uptick in the small number of people in Louisiana signing up for health insurance plans through the federally run marketplace, but enrollments remain low as people have trouble accessing the website. Twelve people have purchased an insurance plan through the online marketplace with Vantage Health Plan, one of four insurance companies offering plans to Louisiana residents through the marketplace, which was created through the federal health care overhaul. Vantage spokesman Billy Justice tells The Associated Press the low figure wasn't surprising, adding traffic on the website is extremely busy and noting that the enrollment period that opened last week runs through March. Justice, director of marketing and sales for the Monroe-based company, says people are sifting through their options, but not buying just yet. "They've got six months to do this," he says. "I didn't expect to have 5,000 people sign up on Day 1. People are shopping through the...

Former DHH secretary's deposition pushed back to Oct. 29

Gov. Bobby Jindal's one-time health secretary will be questioned under oath Oct. 29 in a lawsuit filed by a Maryland-based company against the Jindal administration over a canceled Medicaid contract. Bruce Greenstein's deposition had been scheduled for Thursday, but The Associated Press reports it has been pushed back to coordinate with lawyers' schedules. The Jindal administration wants to delay Greenstein's deposition while a separate criminal investigation into the Medicaid contract award is ongoing. A judge denied the request for the delay on Sept. 30, and his decision is being appealed. Greenstein's questioning is part of a lawsuit filed by Client Network Services Inc. accusing the state of breach of contract for firing the company from a $200 million Medicaid claims processing contract. The Jindal administration has accused Greenstein of inappropriate contact with CNSI throughout the bid process. Greenstein, who was once vice president of CNSI, has denied any meddling in the...

Government admits it needs to fix problems with health care exchange website

Six days into the launch of insurance marketplaces created by the new health care law, the federal government acknowledged for the first time on Sunday that it needs to fix design and software problems that have kept customers from applying online for coverage. The Obama administration maintained last week that an unanticipated surge of Web traffic caused most of the problems and was a sign of high demand by people seeking to buy coverage under the new law. But The Wall Street Journal reports federal officials have said the online marketplace needed design changes, as well as more server capacity to improve efficiency on the federally run exchange that serves 36 states—including Louisiana. About 30 million uninsured people live in the states the federal marketplace will serve, including an estimated 783,000 uninsured in Louisiana. "We can do better and we are working around the clock to do so," says Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human...

La. continues WIC despite federal budget battle

Louisiana will continue operating a nutrition program for more than 140,000 low- to moderate-income women and children even though the federal government is in the midst of a partial shutdown. The Department of Health and Hospitals says Louisiana's Women, Infants and Children Program, commonly called WIC, will be funded until the end of October, using money set aside from the prior fiscal year. The U.S. Department of Agriculture previously advised DHH the money was unavailable during the federal government shutdown. On Wednesday, the USDA contacted DHH and said the funds would be reallocated for use in the current fiscal year. As a result, DHH says it will provide WIC participants with a full month of benefits for October—not a partial month as participants were previously told. Those who received partial benefits earlier this week will have to return to their local WIC office to receive the rest of their October benefits. Additionally, the program will be able to accept new...

'N.Y. Times': Millions of poor left uncovered by health law

A sweeping national effort to extend health coverage to millions of Americans will leave out two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance—the very kinds of people the program was intended to help—The New York Times reports, citing its own analysis of U.S. Census data. In its analysis, The Times questions whether Southern red states such as Louisiana had their residents' best interests in mind when they chose to opt out of the expansion of Medicaid. The Times reports that the 26 states that have rejected the Medicaid expansion are home to 68% of the country's poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers. "The disproportionate impact on poor blacks introduces the prickly issue of race into the already politically charged atmosphere around the health care law," the article reads. "Race was rarely, if ever, mentioned in the state-level debates about the Medicaid expansion. But the issue...

Research foundation takes control of LSU hospitals in north La.

A nonprofit research foundation has taken over management of the LSU hospitals in Shreveport and Monroe. The Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, or BRF, began its management of the hospitals today, under a privatization deal pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal. An arm of the research foundation, which is led by one of Jindal's appointees to the LSU Board of Supervisors, will pay the state $39 million annually to lease the LSU Medical Center in Shreveport and E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe. The Jindal administration says that turning over hospital management to BRF will maintain medical education programs and health services for the poor and uninsured while cutting state costs. Jindal has sought to privatize nearly all university-run hospitals and clinics. LSU School of Medicine in Shreveport, which previously operated the hospitals, will remain a part of the public LSU System. Read