Content tagged “Health”

'Business Report': Quest to make south La. a destination for health care accelerates

By some measures, Louisiana already attracts a fair amount of medical tourism despite the absence of a big name-brand attraction like Houston's MD Anderson Cancer Center or the multistate Mayo Clinic. But as Business Report details in a feature from the current issue, officials touting the Louisiana Medifund want to further develop the "destination health care" business.
Lawmakers created the Medifund last year but didn't actually fund it. On paper, the Medifund is an independent grant-making body meant to create "medical centers of excellence" and boost the economic impact of the state's health care sector. But at the moment, the fund is basically an empty bucket.
"How do we fill it up?" Michael Hecht, president of GNO Inc. and an early champion of the concept, wondered aloud at the second Medifund board meeting in September. "And how do we distribute it, monitor its distribution, and measure what we've distributed?"

Billing of La. rape victims to end under new plan, DHH says

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has a new plan to end the practice of billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests. DHH says in a news release issued this morning that the plan will streamline the funding process by allowing hospitals to bill the Crime Victim's Reparation Board directly. Under current law, the board is not allowed to accept bills for additional medical expenses directly from the provider, which resulted in some hospitals treating victims of sexual assault like normal emergency room patients and billing them for additional services. Victims who decide not to file a police report have been ruled ineligible for reimbursement from the Crime Victims' Reparation Board under the current law. Research by the Justice Department indicates nearly two-thirds of sex assault victims don't ever go to law enforcement. The planned changes by DHH will require legislative...

OLOL, Woman's partner to better monitor, assist critical care patients

Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and Woman's Hospital have launched a partnership by which critical care specialists at OLOL are monitoring and providing assistance to ICU patients at Woman's using real-time, virtual technology. Though Woman's only has four adult ICU beds, finding enough critical care physicians to care for ICU patients is a challenge due to a nationwide shortage of providers in that specialty area. "The move was prompted by the need to alleviate a shortage of critical care physicians—or intensivists—that specialize in the treatment of critically ill patients," says Lauren Davidson, a spokesperson at OLOL. "This is a nationwide shortage that has hit close to home, making it difficult for facilities like Woman's to recruit the physicians they need to care for patients in the ICU." Woman's will pay OLOL a per diem rate to monitor any patients it has in its adult ICU. "This will not replace the doctors in charge of patient care at Woman's," says...

LSU worker to stay off campus after trip to Africa

LSU says an employee who trained Liberian police to use protective clothing has been asked to stay off campus for three weeks. As The Associated Press reports, that's the time within which Ebola virus symptoms could show up. The Department of Health and Hospitals says it's calling the employee twice daily for random temperature checks. Spokeswoman Olivia Watkins says the man knows the virus's signs and symptoms and is not at risk because he did not have contact with any infected people. Jim Fernandez, executive director of LSU's Stevenson National Center for Security Research and Training, says the man was among five workers who returned Tuesday from classroom sessions in Liberia. He says the others live in other states. Watkins notes that nobody in Louisiana has been diagnosed with Ebola.

Medical tourism

By some measures, Louisiana already attracts a fair amount of medical tourism despite the absence of a big name-brand attraction like Houston's MD Anderson Cancer Center or the multistate Mayo Clinic. Officials touting the Louisiana Medifund want to further develop the "destination health care" business.

The Baton Rouge Health District

Most likely, some of the first applicants to the Medifund will be involved with the Baton Rouge Health District.

Publisher: Constitutional amendment No. 2 a step in wrong direction

The Louisiana Hospital Association released a report last week touting the $30 billion impact hospitals have on our state's economy. In his latest column, Business Report Publisher Rolfe McCollister says he doesn't know that anyone would argue with the important role hospitals play in our state. "But this report and the TV commercials to follow are intended to help pass a constitutional amendment to dedicate and protect funding in the budget for hospitals from any cuts once the budget is passed," McCollister writes. "On the surface that sounds reasonable—protect health care. But the fact is, Louisiana has dedicated most of its budget, and only health care and higher education were open to cuts." This has long been an issue, McCollister notes, saying that hospitals and universities were in the same boat asking in unison that the dedications be reduced to provide more flexibility and options for shared cuts in times of lower revenues. "That should have happened, but...

LSU board approves rewritten hospital contracts

LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services. The Associated Press reports the LSU Board of Supervisors approved the rewritten contracts without objection today. The reworked deals are part of an effort by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration to win federal approval to keep Medicaid dollars paying for the privatization arrangements. The contracts govern the management transfer of hospitals in New Orleans, Lafayette, Bogalusa, Shreveport and Monroe and a deal that closed LSU's Lake Charles hospital, moving its inpatient services to a private hospital. Federal health officials rejected prior financing plans. Several LSU board members raised concerns about the ease with which hospital managers can now exit the deals, saying they want the university system to devise backup plans.

Case study in analytics

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana, the state's most prominent health insurer, is trying to nudge the market away from a fee-for-service model toward rewarding providers for improving patients' health.

David Winwood

This summer Pennington Biomedical Research Center hired David Winwood to be its first chief business development officer. A scientist, entrepreneur, and expert in technology transfer, Winwood is establishing the center's Department of Business Development & Commercialization. Its aim is "to develop interactions with partners from around the world who will be able to work with Pennington Biomedical investigators." The network of relationships he envisions naturally includes people and resources in Louisiana. "Increasing outreach and awareness is an important initial goal—with the business community and with our own investigators," he says. In the long term, his department will facilitate the complex process of bringing to market the center's research discoveries. "If you are talking about developing a new therapeutic drug and starting down the development path to approval and market entry, the road to commercial success is a daunting and expensive proposition," he says. Yet the...

Hospital amendment is wrong direction

The Louisiana Hospital Association released a report last week that touted the $30 billion impact by hospitals on our state's economy.

Are you getting enough sleep?

Whether you're a CEO of a multinational company or an entrepreneur running a startup from your garage, getting adequate sleep is essential for you and your business.

LSU reaches financial terms with hospital manager

LSU has settled the major financial disagreements it had with the manager of the university's Shreveport and Monroe hospitals. University system health care adviser Jerry Phillips says LSU and the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, known as BRF, have completed documents that govern the sharing of security, utilities and computer services. BRF runs the hospitals as the University Health System. Rodney Huebbers, CEO of the health system, tells The Associated Press he's pleased the agreements have been signed and the outstanding issues settled. The signing of nearly all outstanding paperwork involving hospital management appears to end talk that LSU might consider filing a breach of contract lawsuit. It also could calm some concerns about new upheaval at the hospitals, which were privatized by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration a year ago. In late August, LSU sent a collection letter to BRF saying it owed the LSU System more than $25 million. In a letter obtained by...

State workers' health insurance dispute takes center stage at Capitol today

Controversy over health insurance changes planned for state workers, teachers and retirees is the focal point of a hearing expected to draw a crowd to the Louisiana Capitol today. The House Appropriations Committee is holding a briefing beginning at 10 a.m. on the rewrite of insurance plans offered by the Office of Group Benefits, which covers 230,000 state workers, public school employees, retirees and their dependents. Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration says changes are needed to address the rising costs of health care caused by medical inflation and federal law changes. But many workers and retirees are accusing the administration of mismanagement, improperly dropping premiums in past years to help balance the state budget. The insurance program is spending more money than it receives each month and is draining a reserve fund to cover costs. On Tuesday, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell's office released an opinion saying the changes to the health insurance plans did not follow the...

Public health, education key components of BREC strategic plan

BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight says public health, conservation education and better connectivity of recreational areas in East Baton Rouge Parish are key components of the 10-year strategic plan BREC is publicly unveiling this evening. BREC has conducted dozens of community planning meetings since the start of the year to help draft the plan, which will be presented at 6 p.m. at Independence Park Theatre, 7800 Independence Blvd. "We heard from communities that they are interested in improving our neighborhood and community parks. Parks and public health came to the top of the list," McKnight says. "The second most important thing people identified was the ability to use the parks as a learning environment for conservation education." The 10-year plan, called "Imagine Your Parks 2: Better Parks, Better Living," will take effect in January. McKnight says the new plan will also focus on better connectivity. "We are in the process of building connecting trails off road," she says.

Jindal's ex-health secretary indicted for perjury

Gov. Bobby Jindal's former health secretary was charged today by a state grand jury with lying about his involvement in the award of a now-canceled $200 million Medicaid contract. The Associated Press reports Bruce Greenstein was indicted on nine counts of perjury, tied to his sworn testimony during a confirmation hearing before a state Senate committee and to the grand jury reviewing the contract and the decision-making behind it. The indictment comes more than a year and a half after the Jindal administration scrapped the 10-year Medicaid claims processing contract with Maryland-based Client Network Services Inc., or CNSI. Since the contract cancellation, the administration has accused Greenstein, a former CNSI vice president, of inappropriate contact with the company throughout the bid process. Greenstein resigned a week after the contract was terminated but has denied any effort to steer the contract to his former employer. His lawyer John McLindon says Greenstein didn't lie in...

La. hospitals have nearly $30B economic impact, report says

Louisiana's 207 hospitals are major economic engines in the state, generating more than $29.9 billion in economic activity annually and directly employing more than 98,000 people, according to a report released today by the Louisiana Hospital Association. The study, which LHA commissioned LSU economics professor Jim Richardson to conduct, says the state's total health care sector employs 285,950 people and has an annual payroll of $10.9 billion. While hospitals make up just 1.7% of all health care sector businesses, they account for 34% of total health care employment and 42.2% of total health care sector payroll in the state. "Over the past few years, the business community and the public have really begun to understand how hospitals are intrinsically linked to the state's economy," says LHA President and CEO Paul Salles in a prepared statement. "Our hospitals not only provide vital, life-saving services, but they also strengthen a community by providing well-paid, highly-skilled...

La. lags in at-home services for disabled people

Louisiana ranks behind most of the nation in enabling people with developmental disabilities to receive care and services in their own homes, according to a report released today. As The Associated Press reports, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera's office says Louisiana has the sixth-highest number of people who are developmentally disabled and living in 24-hour care facilities such as group homes. The state's Medicaid program covers most costs of the care at the 524 facilities around Louisiana, spending $1.3 billion on them during three budget years from 2011 to 2013. They provide physical and speech therapies, special education and rehabilitation services. But the high use of such "intermediate care facilities" comes despite a national trend to offer people with disabilities more care options to stay with or near families and communities, rather than...

MediFund board begins work to make La. national health care destination

Consultants are scheduled to present preliminary ideas today to the newly created MediFund governing board on how to make Louisiana a destination health care market that will attract patients from around the country. This is just the second meeting of the MediFund board, which is an independent grant-making authority created by the Legislature in 2013 to promote destination health care and biomedical research in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and north Louisiana. The board met initially in May but did not have a quorum that day so the gathering was merely informational. It was not clear as of press time this afternoon that a quorum would be present today, either. Still, the presentation is important in helping the board decide how to frame the issue of building a destination health care market here, says Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, which, with GNO Inc., helped spearhead the...

Health insurance program for state workers still hemorrhaging cash

Despite sweeping changes enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, the health insurance program for state workers and public school employees will have to use $88 million from its reserve fund to cover its costs this year. As The Associated Press reports, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Office told lawmakers today that the Office of Group Benefits will spend an estimated $7.4 million more each month on claims and operating expenses than it will receive in premium payments. A "negative burn rate" continues even after premium hikes, service reductions and higher deductibles are put in place during the current budget year that began July 1, according to Travis McIlwain, an analyst with the fiscal office. To cover its costs, the Office of Group Benefits will continue to deplete a reserve fund that once stood at $500 million three years ago, but that has dropped to $207 million and is expected to shrink to $119 million by the end of this budget year. "The fund balance burn rate...

Leading the dairy

Kleinpeter Farms Dairy has brought in new managers in three departments since quality control problems earlier this year cost the company several accounts and threatened to tarnish the adored local brand.

Kleinpeter brings in new managers as it continues addressing quality control

Kleinpeter Farms Dairy has brought in new managers in three departments since quality control problems earlier this year cost the company several accounts and threatened to tarnish the beloved local brand. Changes to the dairy's management team include a new plant manager, a new quality control manager, a new sanitation manager—which is a newly created position—and a new sales manager. The management changes are among several steps the dairy has taken in recent months to address problems with the milk's taste and shelf life, which were detailed in a Business Report cover story in May. In a video posted last week on the company's Facebook page, President and CEO Jeff Kleinpeter says in addition to the management changes the dairy has set up temperature checks for all milk systems. It also records the temperature of each delivery truck when it makes deliveries and uses hand-held computers to...

Public input meeting set on master plan for BR Health District

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is asking the public for its input on the master plan for a Heath District in south Baton Rouge, and it has set a meeting later this month to begin collecting ideas. The meeting will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 24, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Perkins Road Community Park. Officials are hoping to turn the congested medical corridor bordered by Essen Lane, Bluebonnet Boulevard, Perkins Road and Interstate 10 into a Health District that can support the overall wellness of people across the Capital Region. FuturEBR, the city-parish's master plan, identifies the corridor as an essential growth area in need of a master plan. The FuturEBR Implementation Team has asked BRAF to oversee a master plan for the area, and it has in turn hired a planning team led by Perkins+Will to create a blueprint for organizing a Health District. More than $500 million in new medical facilities are expected in this unofficial medical corridor in the next decade, BRAF says.

BRAF looking to create 'comprehensive plan' to battle autism in BR

The Baton Rouge Area Foundation plans to launch a new initiative aimed at tackling the problem of autism, which is growing in Baton Rouge and around the country. BRAF Executive Vice President John Spain announced the project—the latest of several high-profile projects BRAF has taken on over the past year—in a speech to the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge this afternoon. "BRAF will come up with a comprehensive plan for Baton Rouge," Spain said. "It is a complex emotional issue but it is extremely important. It's a much larger issue than we want to talk about." The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates autism affects 1 in 68 children age 8, a rate that is increasing between 13% and 15% annually. Based on those statistics, 176 of every 12,000 babies born in Baton Rouge is at risk for developing autism, which has repercussions for the entire community, Spain said. BRAF has spent the past several months researching the issue and is hoping to eventually create a...

For health care woes, Jindal prescribes confusion

You should not drive or operate heavy machinery while attempting to understand the health care decisions made in recent years by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration.

Alford: For health care woes, Jindal prescribes confusion

You should not drive or operate heavy machinery while attempting to understand the health care decisions made in recent years by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, says Jeremy Alford in his latest column. "Nor should you mix the resulting news coverage with alcohol. (Actually, that might not be a terrible idea.) Side effects may include headaches, feelings of despair, confusion, outrage or dizziness," Alford writes. "If these side effects persist, seek immediate care. Just be careful where you seek it." Last week, Baton Rouge General announced a November closure for its Mid City emergency room. "That was before the state swooped in with an unexpected cash infusion of $7.2 million, which, when coupled with a federal match, means $18 million," Alford writes. "The state saved the day—for now." The emergency room is hemorrhaging $1 million per month, due to an average increase of 400 patients, Alford notes. All of the new patients are uninsured, he says, driven there by the...

The nuclear option

Around 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 27, Baton Rouge General Medical Center began notifying employees its emergency room department would shut down Nov. 1.

Health care experts not surprised by dire straits at BR General's Mid City ER

Wednesday's whirlwind developments at Baton Rouge General—first, the revelation that the hospital planned to close its Mid City emergency room; then, that the state Department of Health and Hospitals had found $18 million to keep the facility open—sent shock waves through parts of the community. But it didn't come as much of a surprise to health care experts who have been closely following the financial struggles of BRG's Mid City campus, which have intensified since the state closed the local charity hospital, Earl K. Long Memorial Medical Center, in 2013 and moved to a privatized system. "We were aware of how dire things were last fall," says Don Gregory, a former DHH official and now the health care adviser at the Public Affairs Research Council. "I had...

DHH to provide $18M to keep BR General Mid City ER open through June 2015

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals has identified $18 million it will provide to Baton Rouge General Hospital to keep the facility's Mid City emergency room open through the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2015. The state is also committed to working with the hospital on a long-term solution to "ensure we have a sustainable funding methodology to keep services in that community," according to DHH Chief of Staff Calder Lynch. DHH announced today it had identified funding to help the hospital with its uncompensated care costs, just hours after the hospital began notifying its staff of plans to close the emergency room on Nov. 1. The hospital's board of trustees voted on the closure Tuesday night, a move prompted by mounting losses that are the result of increased emergency room usage by indigent patients. Lynch says the state has been aware...

News alert: Jindal administration working to keep BR General ER open

Baton Rouge General Hospital President and CEO Mark Slyter has notified employees by email that the Jindal administration has committed to working with the hospital to identify new funding to help keep the hospital's Mid City emergency room open. As first reported by Daily Report this morning, hospital officials began notifying employees early today of a pending closure and were planning to publicly announce their decision this afternoon. In an email sent to hospital employees shortly before noon, Slyter says: "I am delighted to report that the Governor's Office reached out to help us within the last hour to let us know they are committed to working with BRG to identify new funding to help us continue providing ER services at Mid City. … Upon learning of the Governor's offer, our Board convened an emergency meeting and has approved the state's proposal." Read Daily...

BR General to announce closure of Mid City ER

Baton Rouge General Hospital is expected to announce later today that it is shutting down the emergency room at its Mid City campus on Florida Boulevard. Daily Report has learned from multiple sources at the hospital that employees were notified early this morning of the pending closure, as were select business, political and community leaders. Rev. Raymond Jetson, a former state legislator and pastor of Star Hill Church, was among them. He says he was first made aware of discussions among hospital leadership several weeks ago and that he is disappointed by the final decision, though he does not blame the hospital for making a difficult choice. "There are literally lives that are going to be placed in jeopardy as a result of this," he says. "Not singularly because of the decision of the General but because of the health care policy that has been practiced in this state. … This is an anticipatable consequence of the actions that have been taken by the (Jindal)...

LSU, La. Tech students unveil 3D 'printed' medical devices

Jeffrey Weisman envisions a future where low-cost three-dimensional printers spit out custom plastic implants to treat infections and cancer. As The Shreveport Times reports, Weisman, Karthik Tappa and Uday Jammalamadaka recently showed off prototype implants—plastic rods and tiny beads—they created in the past six months with an off-the-shelf 3D printer. They're seeking a grant from the National Science Foundation to continue their work at LSU Health Shreveport and Louisiana Tech in Ruston. "We haven't seen this in any of the (scientific) literature. We believe we are on the forefront of this approach," says Dr. Gerald Capraro, head of LSU Health's microbiology lab. Weisman believes the plastic implants could be a safer, more effective tool than bone cement in joint replacement surgery. The implants would contain antibiotics to fight post-surgery infections. Because the plastic breaks down in a person's body over time, a patient wouldn't have to undergo another...

'Business Report': Sizing up La.'s private approach to public health care

Several years after Louisiana struck a tentative deal with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center to take over delivery of local health care services for the region's poor and become a primary teaching hospital for the LSU medical school, parties to the deal cite substantial progress toward their goals—though the full impact on the state's public health care system is unclear. As Business Report details in the cover story of its Trends in Health Care 2014 special issue—which is included in the current issue of the magazine—the proposal was announced by Gov. Bobby Jindal in January 2010. It committed the state to investing $14 million to help OLOL take over and expand the public "charity" health care services delivered for many decades at Earl K. Long Medical Center. Jindal eventually announced private takeovers of eight other public hospitals around the state in an attempt to reduce costs for public care. The collaboration between OLOL and LSU...

LSU sends collection letter to hospital manager

LSU has sent a collection letter to the nonprofit foundation running the university's hospitals in Monroe and Shreveport, saying it owes the LSU System more than $25 million. The money is for physician, transition and other services related to the privatization that should have been paid by the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, according to LSU. In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, LSU says the foundation hasn't assumed the financial obligations required under its contract, despite taking over hospital management 10 months ago. The university says the foundation has used LSU as its "personal piggy bank." Stephen Skrivanos, research foundation chairman, says LSU's claims "strain credulity." He says the foundation disagrees with the amount owed and blames LSU for making the transition more difficult than necessary.

Federal agency has questions about LSU hospital deals

Gov. Bobby Jindal's revised financing plan for six LSU hospital privatization deals is running into questions from federal health officials who rejected a previous version. The Associated Press reports the state health department today released the three-page question letter from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS. Jindal privatized nearly all the LSU hospitals without waiting for federal officials to sign off on financing arrangements that rely on millions of federal Medicaid dollars. In May, CMS rejected the plans for six hospital deals, saying the agreements don't meet federal guidelines. So, the state Department of Health and Hospitals sent a new proposal. DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert says the questions are a typical part of the process and "positive sign" the revised financing plan could be approved.

Blue Cross executive VP and COO announces retirement

Peggy Scott, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana executive vice president and chief operating officer, announced today that she plans to retire in July 2015. "We will be sad to see her leave us," says Blue Cross President and CEO Mike Reitz in a prepared statement. "Peggy has played a vital role in the success of this company over the past nine years. We will use this next year to conduct a search for a successor to carry on the exemplary leadership that she provided. We wish her the best." A native of Baton Rouge, Scott received her bachelor's degree from LSU in 1973 and her executive MBA in 1992 from Tulane University in New Orleans. Prior to becoming executive vice president and chief operating officer, Scott also held positions of chief financial officer and treasurer at Blue Cross. She is married to local economist Loren Scott. —Steve Sanoski

Shortage to surplus

As a senior at Our Lady of the Lake College, Bridget Jones is just a few months away from the nursing degree she hopes will launch her into a lifelong career. But after four years of working toward her dream of becoming a cardiac care nurse, she wonders whether she will actually land the job.

Stacey Moore

She calls herself "a seeker," always looking for ways to do things better.


Some saw it as a blatant dare when state Sen. Ben Nevers, a Democrat, suggested in June that Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan for national health care reform be put into action in Louisiana.

The big transition

Several years after Louisiana struck a tentative deal with Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center to take over delivery of local health care services for the region's poor and become a primary teaching hospital for the Louisiana State University medical school, parties to the deal cite substantial progress toward their goals, though the full impact on the state's public health care system is unclear.

Privatization pain

Louisiana's private-sector approach to meeting public health care needs has been a road lined with controversy, and one component of Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization initiative that has particularly rankled health care providers is the administration of the state's Medicaid program.

Executive Spotlight: Jamie S. Simpson

In 1993 Jamie Simpson was just 23 when the founder of MMO Behavioral Health Systems asked her to join the fledgling enterprise. "Chris [Nichols] believed in my abilities and talents long before I did," Simpson tells Business Report in the magazine's new Executive Spotlight feature. "She pushed my limits on a daily basis." In the ensuing decades, MMO grew from a single-service agency serving the Baton Rouge area into a major provider of mental health programs and services throughout Louisiana. And Simpson's role expanded in the process. "I learned early on in my career that in order to survive the health care industry, diversification of lines of service was necessary," she says. "I took on different positions of increasing responsibility to assist our organization in diversifying and moving forward." Today, as president and COO of MMO, Simpson is responsible for all facets of the business, though "compliance and revenue streams are on the top of [her] list." In 2008 she became...

Jamie S. Simpson

In 1993 Jamie Simpson was just 23 when the founder of MMO Behavioral Health Systems asked her to join the fledgling enterprise. "Chris [Nichols] believed in my abilities and talents long before I did," Simpson says of her mentor. "She pushed my limits on a daily basis." In the ensuing decades, MMO grew from a single-service agency serving the Baton Rouge area into a major provider of mental health programs and services throughout Louisiana. And Simpson's role expanded in the process. "I learned early on in my career that in order to survive the health care industry, diversification of lines of service was necessary," she says. "I took on different positions of increasing responsibility to assist our organization in diversifying and moving forward." Today, as president and COO of MMO, Simpson is responsible for all facets of the business, though "compliance and revenue streams are on the top of [her] list." In 2008 she became a co-owner of MMO, realizing, she says, "I was already...

Pennington researcher's obesity study featured on NPR

In a feature on NPR's Morning Edition program today, Dr. Tim Church, a professor of preventative medicine at LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center, weighs in on the debate over whether Americans are eating too much or moving too little. "In 1960, 1 out of 2 Americans had a job where they had lots of physical activity and actually exercised at work," Church tells NPR. "By 2008, very few Americans do work that doesn't involve sitting around all day." His research—presented in the 2011 article "Trends over 5 decades in U.S. occupation-related physical activity and their associations with obesity"—found that only 1 in 5 Americans move on the job, but Church says that's likely a "gross underestimate," adding that it's probably more like 1 in 10. "We have these great old pictures seeing cars being built in the '60s, and these men were physically picking up a bumper and...

BR firm to launch first scheduling platform connecting patients with dentists

Baton Rouge-based LocalMed, which got its start in the LSU Student Incubator in 2011 and is a former Louisiana Business & Technology Center tenant, has launched its scheduling platform for patients to find and book dentist appointments online, 24/7. "Companies like LocalMed are a great example of the local creativity and innovative minds of our state's students and entrepreneurs," LBTC Executive Director Charles D'Agostino said in a prepared statement. "This company expanded and developed at the LBTC and has now launched into national markets.” In January 2014, LocalMed formed a partnership with United Concordia dental insurance. This fall, LocalMed’s “Schedule Now” button can be found on United Concordia’s Find a dentist page to offer online scheduling to their members and providers. LBTC says LocalMed's online scheduling program is unique because the patient books a real-time, confirmed appointment, rather than an appointment request, which...

Pennington hires first chief business development officer

David Winwood has been named Pennington Biomedical Research Center's first chief business development officer, which Pennington says underscores "the importance of moving research discoveries focusing on health, prevention and treatment of chronic diseases into the global marketplace." Winwood's appointment is effective immediately, and he brings more than 20 years of experience in technology transfer and commercialization to the research center. He joins Pennington Biomedical from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he served as both senior associate vice president for economic development and innovation alliances and chief executive officer of the research foundation. He also previously spent time at North Carolina State University on commercialization ventures and worked in the Research Triangle and at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He began his career in startup companies, where he had the opportunity to work on the drug development process for a drug...

Health plan changes in the works for Bayou Health

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration intends to rework how it pays the private managed care networks that provide health services to two-thirds of Louisiana's Medicaid patients. The Department of Health and Hospitals announced planned changes to its Bayou Health program, an insurance-based model that covers 900,000 Medicaid recipients, mostly pregnant women and children. The changes—to be discussed at a legislative hearing today—come as the current managed care contracts are expiring and DHH seeks new bids. The Associated Press reports Bayou Health currently has two models. The state either pays companies a monthly premium for each enrollee and the companies pay health providers, or the state pays companies a management fee and reimburses health providers directly for each service rendered. DHH intends to only use premium-based health plans in the next contracts.

Looking back, looking forward

As Baton Rouge continues to look at ways to reshape its infrastructure to fit a complete streets model, it might be helpful to look back at how the city grew to where it is today. The US Geological Survey has historical maps of the city dating back to 1908, when areas like Southdowns and along Highland and Perkins roads were little more than swamplands and fields.

Jindal slams Obamacare in Fox News column

In a guest column for Fox News, Gov. Bobby Jindal says that when it comes to Obamacare, the American public should feel as if "someone promised to give you a car, and then reneged on that pledge." That's because "Obama's failed and discredited campaign promise to lower health insurance premiums has cost the average American family an amount equal to the price of many new cars," Jindal writes. During his 2008 presidential campaign, Jindal says, one of then-Senator Obama's "most audacious promises" was that his health plan would reduce premiums by $2,500 for the average family. "His repeatedly made his pledge on videotape," writes Jindal, who includes links to the pledge. "But health insurance premiums have continued to rise—not just despite ObamaCare, but in many cases because of the law's new regulations and mandates." Citing a recent analysis by think tank America Next—for which Jindal is honorary chairman—the governor says that since 2008 Americans have seen their...

LSU hospital deals cost $52M less than expected

Louisiana spent $52 million less than was budgeted for Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization deals for the LSU hospitals that provide care to the uninsured in the recently ended fiscal year, according to data provided to The Associated Press by the state health department. Jindal's health secretary, Kathy Kliebert, says the hospitals' new managers are improving care while also running more efficient operations. "We feel really comfortable that they are managing their budgets, that their new cost structures that they're setting in place are working, and at the same time we're getting really good quality care," Kliebert tells The AP. The Department of Health and Hospitals also says some of the reduced spending can be tied to a slower-than-expected restart of services that had been cut when LSU was operating the hospitals and their clinics. But lawmakers in areas with the privatization deals have raised concerns that some of the uninsured patients are going to other private hospitals in the...

ACA sign-ups in La. have 'no noticeable impact' on uninsured rates

While more than 100,000 Louisiana residents signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the push to enlist individuals and families into health plans largely missed the people who needed it the most. As The Shreveport Times reports, that's the conclusion reached by the Louisiana Hospital Association and WalletHub, an online personal finance adviser which released its 2014 Health Insurance Coverage Report showing that the vast majority of the 101,778 Louisianans who bought insurance through the program already had some type of coverage. "A majority of them are not people who were uninsured. They were moving from one coverage to another. We haven't seen a noticeable difference" in the number of newly insured patients, says Paul A. Salles, president and chief executive officer of the LHA. "It has not made a noticeable impact in Louisiana. The uninsured...

Lend a hand

There are several opportunities this weekend to help out with the arts in Baton Rouge and the betterment of our struggling communities—two things that are big topics on the Smart City blog. Read on for more information, and let us know in the comments below about other events and causes coming up around the city that need volunteers!

'Business Report': La. goes after federal, foundation dollars to create 'destination' health care

The Baton Rouge area has a lot of hospitals and doctors. So does pretty much every city in America. So if local leaders want the region's medical sector to stand out nationally—and many of them do—they'll have to figure out what Baton Rouge can be really good at, and invest in whatever that is. As a new feature from the current issue of Business Report details, Louisiana's new MediFund is supposed to help them do both. Created by House Bill 549 of the 2013 session of the Louisiana Legislature and organized under the Board of Regents, the MediFund is basically an independent grant-making authority meant to promote "destination" health care and bioscience research—in other words, assets that would actually draw patients from other states and countries. MediFund monies are to be committed only to public or nonprofit entities, but with an emphasis on economic development through public-private collaboration. The newly created MediFund governing board just met for...

Health law sign-ups dogged by data flaws, report says

The Obama administration has been struggling to clear up data discrepancies that could potentially jeopardize coverage for millions under the health overhaul, the government's health care fraud watchdog reports this morning. The Health and Human Services inspector general says the administration was not able to resolve 2.6 million so-called "inconsistencies" out of a total of 2.9 million such problems in the federal insurance exchange from October through December 2013. Of the roughly 330,000 cases that could be straightened out, the administration had only actually resolved about 10,000 during the period of the inspector general's audit. That worked out to less than 1% of the total. Several states running their own insurance markets also were having problems clearing up data discrepancies. Most of the issues dealt with citizenship and income information supplied by consumers that conflicted with what the federal government has on record, the report says. It marks the first...

The MediFund

The Baton Rouge area has a lot of hospitals and doctors. So does pretty much every city in America.

Patients take control

Juggling constantly changing work, family and social calendars can make the task of scheduling a dental appointment quite challenging for even the most organized among us.

The underdogs

Last year, Mike Legit made what seemed to some to be an unusual business move: He opened an independent pharmacy on a busy thoroughfare where CVS and Walgreens dominate two corners of a nearby intersection and Walmart and Winn Dixie dominate another.

A dearth of dentists

People who rank going to the dentist on a par with, say, paying taxes might want to consider the alternative.
What if they didn't have access to dental care?

DHH 'very optimistic' second state hospital financing plan will get federal approval

State officials are hopeful that taking a different track will satisfy federal Medicaid officials who previously rejected a plan for financing state hospitals that have been turned over to private operators, The Shreveport Times reports. The state solicited and signed contracts for private providers to take over the operations of most of the state-run public hospital system. The "partners" that utilize state facilities pay leases to the state and receive payments for providing services. On May 2, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) threw out the idea of using advance lease payments from the "partners" operating six state-owned hospitals to secure additional funding to pay for care provided to the state's high number of low-income and uninsured patients. The hospitals involved are in Lafayette, Shreveport, Monroe, New Orleans, Lake Charles and Bogalusa. Department of Health and Hospitals Undersecretary Jeff Reynolds says he believes CMS misinterpreted the...

'225 Dine': Meet LSU food scientist Luis Espinoza

Ask any of the tenants at the LSU AgCenter's Food Incubator program about in-house food scientist Luis Espinoza, and you'll hear nothing but kind words, 225 Dine reports. "We couldn't do what we do without him," says Lindsey Kelly, a tenant who works on the locally made Re: dressings and marinades. "He's always on hand, willing to answer questions. His expertise is amazing and invaluable." At the incubator, Espinoza helps local, budding food ventures get their products onto grocery store shelves by teaching tenants things like product consistency on a molecular level, food safety, inspection guidelines and market development. He'll be honored Tuesday at the Institute of Food Technologists' Annual Meeting and Food Expo in New Orleans for earning his certified food scientist designation. Incubator Director Gaye Sandoz says the certification now gives the incubator program access to one of only three certified food scientists in the state. "For LSU to have him on staff sets us...

Model Block yoga studio will offer more than yoga

Puruṣa, a new, locally owned yoga studio, will begin offering classes in its space at Model Block in August, says owner Lauren Collignon. Classes will be held in the front room of Denicola's—a local upholstery, restoration and painting store—at first, before Denicola's moves out and Collignon fully takes over the space at 2931 Government St. in October. Model Block is an urban renewal project that involves renovating a series of buildings in the 2900 block of Government Street, bringing several new businesses and the offices of Ritter Maher Architects to the neighborhood. "It will be a great way to get it started and let people know where it is," Collignon says of the yoga studio. Puruṣa will start with five instructors teaching 20 classes a week, including Ashtanga, hot Vinyasa, acrobatic, therapeutic and hot yoga classes, as well as yoga philosophy. Although Puruṣa will be the third new yoga studio to open its doors in the Capital City in less than a...

Sandra Weitz

Founder, Comprehensive Pain Management

'225': LSU student with cerebral palsy fights for legalized medical marijuana

Jacob Irving, a 21-year-old political communications major at LSU, was diagnosed at birth with a spastic form of cerebral palsy. As 225 details in a feature from the current issue, Irving's muscles and movements are permanently impaired to the point that even the simplest of activities require a Herculean effort to perform. To maintain some flexibility, he exercises and stretches for 40 hours each week. His prescription drug intake is considerable. Although he has managed his condition with ease, Irving is quick to point out that he's more fortunate than most. For the majority of people, life with a permanent movement disorder is even harder. ​A member of the LSU chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Irving has become an ardent defender of medical marijuana, an affordable, non-invasive treatment option for some patients. For his own condition, Irving says using medical marijuana could be transformative. "It is known to loosen the muscles, making the daily...

2 million Obamacare enrollees have discrepancies that could jeopardize coverage, report says

More than 2 million people who got health insurance under President Barack Obama's law—or more than 1 in 4 enrollees—have data discrepancies that could jeopardize coverage for some, a government document shows. The Associated Press, which was provided with the document, reports the discrepancies are creating a huge paperwork jam for the feds and exposing some consumers to repayment demands, or possibly even loss of coverage, if they got too generous a subsidy. The seven-page slide presentation from the Health and Human Services department was provided to The AP as several congressional committees are actively investigating the discrepancies, most of which involve important details on income, citizenship and immigration status. Responding to the document, administration officials expressed confidence that most of the discrepancies can be resolved over the summer. Nonetheless, HHS has set up a system to "turn off" benefits for anyone who is found to be ineligible. Julie...

Jindal among six Republican governors asking Obama to improve VA health system

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Gov. Bobby Jindal and five fellow Republican governors ask the president to address problems with the Veterans Health Administration by giving states some control over the review of VA facilities and treatment of veterans if the VA cannot do so in a timely manner. The letter—signed by Jindal, Texas' Rick Perry, Florida's Rick Scott, Kansas' Sam Brownback, Maine's Paul LePage and Pennsylvania's Tom Corbett—says: "While we believe that your decision to accept the resignation of Secretary Eric Shinseki was appropriate, this change is only the beginning of many needed reforms to protect and care for our nation's veterans." The letter goes on to list the number of veterans in each of the governors' states (Louisiana has 315,000, it says), and concludes with a request for three reforms "as a start to addressing the monumental problems at the VA." The governors ask Obama to allow states to partner with his administration and...

'Business Report': DHH says violations at La. dairy farms not uncommon

While Kleinpeter Farms Dairy has been cited by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals for multiple sanitation violations over the past 18 months, it is not alone. As Business Report details in a sidebar to its exclusive story from the current issue on the struggles Kleinpeter is having over quality control issues, monthly inspection reports from DHH show all four of the state's dairies are regularly written up for violations that include issues like leaky valves, dirty walls and floors, missing caps and cluttered work areas. According to DHH, the violations are not as serious as you might think. That's because milk is pasteurized, which kills any deadly bacteria, like listeria, that may be present in the raw product—or even introduced early on in the processing. So while the problems noted at Brown's Dairy, Borden Dairy, Sunshine State Dairy and Kleinpeter sound, well, icky, none has ever...


© Copyright, Louisiana Business Inc., 2014

La. Medicaid expansion debate likely dead for the session following committee vote

Efforts to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program appear dead for the legislative session, after a House committee today rejected multiple bills to give government-funded health care to more adults. The Associated Press reports the House Health and Welfare Committee voted 12-4 against a Medicaid expansion proposal from Rep. Herbert Dixon, D-Alexandria. Two other bills sponsored by Democrats were later killed with similar votes. The Senate already had refused the expansion. The expansion would offer Medicaid coverage to adults making up to 138% of the federal poverty level—less than $33,000 for a family of four. The federal government would pay most of the cost. Supporters say the coverage would save lives. Opponents, who included Gov. Bobby Jindal, called it a costly and unsustainable government expansion. The votes fell largely across party lines, with Republicans largely opposing the bills.

Mounting quality problems put Kleinpeter in difficult position

Few companies in Baton Rouge engender as much customer loyalty as Kleinpeter Farms Dairy. The 101-year-old operation is a family-owned business and a local institution, one of just four remaining dairies in the state and the only one still locally owned. So beloved is the Kleinpeter brand, customers are willing to pay a 25% premium, on average, for Kleinpeter products—which they genuinely believe taste better. But over the past year, problems with Kleinpeter's quality—the taste and shelf life of its signature milk products—have surfaced. Although no one, including the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, is suggesting Kleinpeter products pose any health issues, the company's image and carefully cultivated customer relations may be on the line. The problems have been mounting for months, and now the company is aggressively trying to address them. In recent weeks Kleinpeter has hired consultants, contracted with an LSU dairy scientist, fired several...

Feds providing 'excellent leadership' in working through hospital deals, state official says

State officials had a productive conversation Wednesday with federal regulators about the lease agreements for six of the state's safety net hospitals, says Calder Lynch, chief of staff for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, known as CMS, last month formally objected to the state's financing plans, which depend on federal dollars. "CMS provided excellent leadership and a very clear path forward for the state," during the call Wednesday, Lynch says. He says CMS officials reiterated that they're OK with the public-private partnership model, but want clarification about how hospitals will be reimbursed with federal money for treating poor patients. Lynch participated in a panel discussion today hosted by Leaders With Vision. —David Jacobs

BR medical provider buys Airline Highway properties for expansion

Prime Occupational Medicine—a medical provider that helps workplaces prevent and manage occupational injury and illness and promote health among employees—is expanding its Baton Rouge location on Airline Highway with the purchase of two adjacent buildings for $605,000. The medical provider's current building—at 15475 Airline, between Highland Road and the state fairgrounds near Prairieville—is approximately 5,000 square feet, says spokesperson Meichi Lee, and the two adjacent buildings total 6,000 square feet. The acquisition also includes a 1-acre concrete parking lot, which Lee says is necessary for parking Prime Occupational's onsite service vehicles. "We drive those big RV vehicles to our clients' locations at plants like Exxon when they're hiring people," she says. "We can do drug tests, hearing tests and other tests inside the vehicle, so we bring our clinic to our clients." Lee says the expansion will require some surface work, but they "plan to start...

Mark Slyter

Since November, Mark Slyter has been settling into his roles as president and CEO of Baton Rouge General and its parent company. "I have focused on listening and cultivating relationships with our talented team of leaders and caregivers," he says. "Team" is a word that comes readily to the former linebacker for the University of Kansas. Those he leads at the General he calls "team members," whom he lauds for their "tremendous dedication to the highest standards for quality and patient safety." Slyter says some roles at the executive level have been added "to enhance our focus on a few core areas: driving … reliable patient care quality and safety, fostering physician alignments and collaborations, and innovating for the future." To take the reins at the General, Slyter, now 45, left a parallel position with Baptist Health Systems in Mississippi, one of several systems in the South where he gained expertise in hospital administration. The move to Baton Rouge was, in effect, a...

'225': Local trainer Kolby Tullier gets athletes in shape

"By watching a small video clip, personal trainer Kolby Tullier can identify the problem. He's had more than enough experience," writes 225 contributing writer Jake Clapp to open a feature on Tullier from the current issue. In 2002, Tullier opened his training studio, Body Mechanics, training everyone from high school athletes and CEOs to those looking to improve their weekend tennis games. The facility has since become a destination for professional athletes who want customized workouts. "In any sport, you can have great athletes who perform and play at a high level, but they can still have imbalances and weaknesses in their kinetic chain," he says. "I'll find those imbalances and get them to perform at a level they never dreamed." He has trained many former LSU Tigers, including current NFL players such as Matt Flynn and Steven Ridley, as well as PGA golfer John Peterson and Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Mikie Mahtook, who says he was hooked on Tullier's approach from day one.

New La. abortion rules edge closer to final passage

New legal restrictions that would require doctors performing abortions in Louisiana to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the procedure’s site are nearing final legislative passage, over the opposition of abortion-rights groups that say the bill will shutter clinics. The Associated Press reports a bipartisan Senate Health and Welfare Committee backed the House-approved measure without objection today, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, says her proposal would ensure women have access to proper care if they have complications because of an abortion. Supporters of the bill described possible medical complications like hemorrhages, cervical injuries and infections. They say abortion clinics have a "special interest loophole" that sanctions a lower standard of care than what ambulatory surgical centers must have. Opponents say the new restrictions are medically unnecessary and are designed to limit women's access...

Lawmakers advance next hospital privatization plan

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration is pushing ahead with privatization plans for a ninth LSU hospital, despite the recent rejection of federal financing plans for other hospital outsourcing deals. The Associated Press reports that lawmakers appear willing to go along with the effort. The House health committee voted 10-8 today for a Senate-backed measure that would authorize the shuttering of the university-run hospital in Pineville and move its services to two nearby private hospitals. The plan advances next to the full House. LSU health care adviser Jerry Phillips says federal refusal to back financing for other privatization deals won't affect the Pineville plans. He says the rejection involved lease payments, but there's no lease deal for federal review since Huey P. Long Medical Center will close.

Jindal won't scrap hospital privatization model

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration won't reverse course on privatizing state-owned hospitals that care for the poor and uninsured and will continue negotiating with federal officials on ways to pay for the deals, Jindal's chief budget adviser says. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, rejected financing plans submitted by the Jindal administration for most of the privatization contracts late last week, and lawmakers were trying to determine the state's next steps. Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols told the House Appropriations Committee today that the denial won't force an adjustment in turning over the LSU hospitals to outside managers. She said the changes have improved health care. "We are fully invested in this model. It's working," Nichols says, adding the state will appeal the CMS ruling and will negotiate on alternative financing plans to keep the hospital deals in place, in case the appeal is denied. The state health department submitted a...

LA Fitness hopes to open in former Bally's location at Perkins Rowe Tuesday

California-based health club chain LA Fitness is wasting no time moving into the local market. Less than one week after Bally's Fitness Center closed its doors at Perkins Rowe—the result of the mounting financial problems of its owner, Fitness Ventures LLC—LA Fitness is getting ready to open in the same space. Employees spent the weekend repairing and upgrading gym equipment and are signing up new members at discounted rates on site this morning. They hope to be open Tuesday, pending the receipt of needed permits from the city-parish. Meanwhile, LA Fitness is also preparing to break ground on a new facility that will be located less than two miles away on Siegen Lane. Members will be able to use both facilities when the Siegen Lane location is completed, which is...

St. John the Baptist site chosen for possible $200 million manufacturing facility

Etimine USA, a subsidiary of Turkish state-owned Eti Mine Works, is studying the feasibility of building a $200 million boron manufacturing facility on the west bank of the Mississippi River in St. John the Baptist Parish. Gov. Bobby Jindal joined Etimine USA President and CEO Gokhan Yazici at the site today to announce the possible project, which LED estimates would create 200 new direct jobs and 590 indirect jobs. The facility would manufacture and process boron compounds for chemical and construction products like glass, as well as for other customers primarily in the North American market. Etimine would purchase 1,300 acres of what is known as the Robert Farms site for the facility near the Gramercy Bridge for $25 million, and the company would develop its manufacturing operations on approximately 200 acres of that site. Etimine will make a final investment decision on going forward with the project in the first quarter of 2015. LED says it began working with Etimine USA to...

Report: 55.3% of Louisianans eligible for coverage under ACA sign up

Of the 184,041 Louisianans who were eligible to sign up for a health plan through the federally run insurance marketplace created by the Affordable Care Act, 101,778—or 55.3%—enrolled as of the March 31 deadline, according to new figures released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The signups in Louisiana were among roughly 8 million Americans who chose a health plan in the first year of the new marketplaces. Enrollment began in October last year. Over the same span, more than 4.8 million more gained coverage through Medicaid and children's insurance programs, DHS says. The federal and state figures released today show a surge in enrollment since the last time numbers were released on March 1, doubling in a number of states, including Louisiana, Texas, Georgia and Florida. As of March 1, 45,561 people were reportedly signed up for coverage in Louisiana, meaning more than 56,000 people signed up in the state during March. Specifically in Louisiana, 59% of...

Tina S. Holland

Tina Holland began her tenure as president of Our Lady of the Lake College on April 22. It's a role she has prepared for over the last 20 years. Holland moved to Baton Rouge from Notre Dame, Ind., where she rose to the position of executive vice president and provost of Holy Cross College. There the mother of four began her career in higher education as an adjunct instructor in math. "As my children grew, I was presented with increased levels of responsibility in teaching and in academic leadership," she says. Ready for challenge, she came to teach full-time, then moved into administration, completing a doctorate in higher ed along the way. Holland was attracted to the opportunity at OLOL College "to advance the FMOL Sisters' compelling mission to educate those who will serve in the 'healing ministries.' " Her goals in assuming the presidency are defined, she says, by the college's mission and current strategic plan. She notes that OLOL College's aims include "ambitious but realistic...

My new demographic reality

I recently celebrated a birthday with a zero in the "ones" column.

Bike and be friendly

Events this weekend and early next week celebrate the importance of being a bike-friendly community. Downtown Baton Rouge celebrates Louisiana Earth Day with music, educational activities and much more Sunday. Ushering in the event is the Mayor's Annual Family Bike Day, which starts at noon, circling downtown and ending at the festival in North Boulevard's Town Square just in time for all the fun to begin.

LA Fitness purchases 8 acres off Siegen Lane for $1.3 million

California-based LA Fitness, a health club chain with over 500 locations across the U.S. and Canada, yesterday purchased two tracts totaling roughly 8 acres off of Siegen Lane. The land was purchased from Siegen Retail LLC for approximately $1.3 million. The fitness chain filed a plan review application with the city-parish Department of Public Works for the construction of a facility on the site late last year. According to the application, the plan is for an athletic workout facility–located at 6474 Siegen Lane near Academy Sports–that will total 38,000 square feet and include an approximately 3,600-square-foot mezzanine as well as an indoor pool and a sauna. The city-parish Planning and Zoning Commission approved a staff-level site plan for the Siegen LA Fitness in February, says interim Planning Director Ryan Holcomb. The Siegen Lane club would mark LA Fitness' first Louisiana location, according to the LA Fitness website, but officials with LA Fitness did not return...

Poll: Louisianans don't like Obamacare, but they don't want to repeal it either

Despite strong dislike of President Obama's handling of health care, a majority of people in three Southern states—Louisiana, Kentucky and North Carolina—would rather that Congress improve his signature health care law than repeal and replace it, The New York Times reports, citing its New York Times Upshot/Kaiser Family Foundation poll. "The poll also found that a majority of Kentucky residents—and a plurality in a fourth state, Arkansas—said they thought the health care marketplace in their state was working well, even as they expressed strong disapproval of the health care law," the newspaper reports. "The findings in the four states—all with political races that could tip the balance of power in the Senate—underscore the complex and often contradictory views of Obama's principal domestic legislation four years after it became law." The Times makes clear that "most people still loathe the law" across the South. Specifically, in...

Amedisys finalizes $150 million payment to settle Medicare fraud case

Baton Rouge-based Amedisys has finalized an agreement to pay $150 million to the federal government to settle allegations that the company submitted false home health care billings to the Medicare program between 2008 and 2010, the Department of Justice announced today via a press release. Amedisys, which provides home health services in 37 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, is not admitting to any wrongdoing under terms of the settlement. Amedisys first announced the tentative settlement amount in a regulatory filing in November, saying it had begun setting aside funds to make the payment. The company also will enter into a corporate integrity agreement with the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services as part of the settlement, DOJ says. The settlement also resolves "certain allegations that Amedisys maintained improper financial relationships with...

Medicaid expansion debate to take center stage at Capitol today

Louisiana's fight over whether or not to participate in the federal expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act takes center stage at the Capitol today, with a Senate committee scheduled to take up Senate Bill 96 by Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, which would place a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 4 ballot allowing voters to decide the matter. Gov. Bobby Jindal opposes the expansion. Groups on both sides of the debate issued statements and figures in advance of this morning's hearing, arguing their points one more time in the long-running debate. The Louisiana Budget Project, a left-leaning organization that supports Medicaid expansion, says in a report released late Tuesday that "the seven-parish Baton Rouge metro area could see an influx of $1.9 billion in new federal health funding over 10 years" if the expansion is approved.

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 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...