In The News › Forum tackles financing health care for the poor

Jan 26, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

Forum tackles financing health care for the poor

Forum tackles financing health care for the poor
Fed, state officials must hash out costs
Friday, January 26, 2007
By Kate Moran
Staff writer

For at least two months, state leaders have said the plan to redesign health care in New Orleans
by providing insurance policies to the poor and expanding eligibility for Medicaid could cost more
than $500 million a year.

But the secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals said Thursday that those
estimates would have to be refined through negotiations with the federal government — which foots
most of the bill for public health care — over how generous the health benefits will be.

Health Secretary Fred Cerise said it would not be prudent to quote an exact number until leaders
at the federal and state level can agree on various benchmarks, including at what income level
residents would qualify for the new insurance plans.

At a breakfast forum sponsored by the Bureau of Governmental Research, Cerise said the federal
government had postponed two telephone conferences, including one scheduled for this week,
during which state and federal authorities would have haggled over the details of the private
insurance model.

The parties could do so as early as next week, when U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary
Michael Leavitt is scheduled to visit Louisiana to shop a separate proposal by President Bush to
make insurance coverage for the working poor more affordable through tax breaks.

Under the plan proposed by the Health Care Redesign Collaborative, the group led by Cerise, the
state would aim to cover at least 80 percent of the estimated 127,000 people in the New Orleans
area who lack insurance, as well as try to expand Medicaid coverage statewide for children,
pregnant women, the disabled and people with serious mental illnesses.

Dr. Floyd Buras, past president of the Louisiana State Medical Society and a member of the
redesign collaborative, said during the forum’s question-and-answer period that some models
show that health care redesign would cost far less than the $500 million some state leaders have
recently been citing.

Buras said that number was promulgated by legislative leaders who wanted to derail health care
reform and preserve the old safey-net system centered around state-run charity hospitals.

Although Cerise said Thursday that the state was working with “several models,” he told a joint
legislative committee in November that the annual cost of providing insurance subsidies and
expanding Medicaid could reach $523 million by the fifth year of the program. That figure factors in
inflation and includes the cost of increasing reimbursements for doctors to encourage them to
accept more Medicaid patients.

Cerise characterized it at the time as a “ballpark” number.

The state health and hospitals secretary appeared at the forum alongside Donna Fraiche, a health
care attorney and member of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. In addition to describing plans for

Jan 26, 2007

Source: Times-Picayune

Fair Use Notice

This site occasionally reprints copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues and to highlight the accomplishments of our affiliates. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is available without profit. For more information go to: US CODE: Title 17,107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.