Content tagged “Health”

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...

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 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.