Thank you for your recent editorial, which reflects the sadness all LSU fans feel about Mike the Tiger’s terminal illness, and the hope that cancer treatment will extend his life. You articulated the point well that merely miles away from Mike’s habitat, at the State Capitol, decisions are being made about Louisiana’s safety net hospitals and medical schools. This will affect thousands of citizens, some who, like Mike, also are suffering from a terminal illness. As a former legislator and now the director of the Alliance of Public Private Hospital Partners, I’ve seen the state’s safety net system before and after privatization. Under the old government-owned system, care for the uninsured and medical education cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars more and was chronically underfunded by the Legislature. The result was very long wait times for medical appointments, or a total lack of access to services in certain areas. I know this because my legislative office in Lafayette constantly received calls from constituents pleading for help.

The privatization of the safety net system has provided a great return to Louisiana. More than 8,000 jobs were trimmed from the state payroll to the partner hospitals. Two new state revenue sources were created, in that these hospitals pay sales taxes and also make lease payments of $210 million that generate over $550 million (when combined with federal dollars). If this budget is fully funded, 88 cents of each dollar spent on health care and medical education is provided by private or federal dollars.

The health care consulting firm Kaufmann Hall concluded that the cost of care per patient per day has been reduced from $4,137 in 2011 to $1,690 in 2015 in Baton Rouge. In Lafayette, that cost has been reduced from $2,339 to $1,808 per day. Louisiana has 1,900 doctors in training who see 8-10 patients per day, versus two patients per day 10 years ago. Because of the higher volume of patients, more students are choosing to train at LSU and remain in Louisiana to practice, according to Dr. Larry Hollier, chancellor of the LSU Medical School in New Orleans.

Currently, the statewide partner hospital budget is $38 million underfunded, which will trigger a loss of $75 million in federal funds, and $7 million in self-generated revenue, for a total cut of $120 million. This cut will be passed on to both the partner hospitals and the medical schools, jeopardizing once again the medical education residency program and access to care for patients. Ironically, partner hospitals will be forced to reduce services, at a time when the state Department of Health and Hospitals projects over 370,000 new Medicaid enrollees under expansion. Let’s not go back to the expensive two-tiered system of the past. Let’s not reverse progress in our state’s medical education. We owe our most needy citizens access to quality care, just like our beloved Mike the Tiger.

Mike Michot

director, Alliance for Public-Private Hospital Partnerships