Gov. Bobby Jindal’s new initiative to reform the way health care is delivered to the state’s citizenry, entitled “Louisiana Health First,” is focusing first on the regions with the greatest needs. That means places like Acadiana, Houma-Thibodaux and large portions of north Louisiana aren’t part of the picture.
Members of the state House received a briefing on the plan last week, which left many unwilling to endorse. Most, however, are aware that something – anything – needs to be done to improve the current picture. The day after the House met, the United Health Foundation announced that Louisiana had fallen to the bottom spot in its annual state-by-state health care rankings. The 50th spot was awarded due to Louisiana’s abysmal rates of obesity, infant mortality and preventable hospitalizations. Still, Jindal’s big health care redesign will not go statewide at the start.
State Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine says the pilot program’s reach could grow depending on its future outcomes, but a spotlight must immediately be placed on underserved areas like New Orleans and Lake Charles. “The regions are proposed based on the number of Medicaid beneficiaries that live in those regions and the number and breadth of providers available in those regions,” Levine says. He adds that some elements of the new DHH proposal will benefit all areas of the state, so even the “overlooked” regions can anticipate a trickle-down effect in coming years. Additionally, as part of the new plan, DHH will implement disease management initiatives in all areas of Louisiana. “The initial locations are just that – initial locations,” Levine says. “As DHH is able to demonstrate the coordinated care network program’s effectiveness, it would then recommend expansion to other parts of the state.”