Louisiana Health Care Coalition Proposes Insurance Vouchers

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The Coalition of Leaders for Louisiana Health Care on Tuesday proposeda plan to divert federal funds from the New Orleans' charity hospitalsystem to a free-market model that would provide residents withinsurance cards to the physician of their choice, the New Orleans Times-Picayunereports. The coalition suggested redirecting about half of the "federaldisproportionate share hospitals" payments to create insurance vouchersfor adults with incomes below 200% of the federal poverty level. Underthe plan, doctors would be reimbursed at 90% of Medicare rates fortheir services.

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According to analysts from the Lewin Group,monthly premiums for the plan would be about $194. The program wouldcost $208 million, the analysts said -- a little more than half of the$370 million in federal disproportionate share hospital paymentsavailable for New Orleans charity care. The remaining federal fundingwould serve as a safety net to cover care for prison inmates, residentswith acute mental illnesses and others, according to the plan proposedby the coalition.

Since Hurricane Katrina, and the subsequentclosing of Charity Hospital, uninsured residents have been forced toseek care in emergency departments or "far-flung corners of the state,"the Times-Picayune reports. According to Coalition Chair Mark Peters, CEO of East Jefferson General Hospital,the voucher program would provide payments to physicians who have beenreceiving no reimbursement for treating the uninsured since Katrina. Inaddition, he said allowing patients to choose their providers wouldforce area hospitals to improve.

Gov.-elect Bobby Jindal (R)has said he supports using the disproportionate share funding tosupport clinic-based care, rather than exclusively hospital-based care.His press secretary, Melissa Sellers in an e-mail wrote that Jindal"looks forward to working with this group along with other key healthcare stakeholders to ensure Louisiana patients have access to the besthealth care possible" (Moran, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 12/5).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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