Hospice State of Emergency

Local lawmakers met at Hospice of Acadiana Wednesday, to discuss the Medicaid Hospice cuts starting on February 1st.  The cuts come as the Jindal Administration tries to tackle this year's budget deficit.

In just two weeks, new Medicaid patients will no longer receive hospice care.  That's nearly 1800 patients.  And the potential loss has prompted local lawmakers to request an emergency oversight hearing with legislators.

On board is Senator Fred Mills, a former Hospice board member.

“I think we all agree this is not a good cut for the Department of Health and Hospitals,” said Mills. “So, we're going to go back to the drawing board, meet with some folks and see  if we can make some things happen here.”

And for every attendee, there was a personal appreciation for Hospice.  Looking at the big picture, State Representative Stephen Ortego says the $1 million cuts to the program are just a drop in the state's bucket.

“We need to re-evaluate what our priorities are in the state,” said Ortego. “We have these corporate give outs, we're giving money to sports teams with taxpayer money, but at the same time we're telling the terminally ill, you can no longer get hospice care.”

And one of the reoccurring issues is the cost effectiveness of Hospice. Without it, patients sent to the Emergency Room would cost taxpayers over $9,000 as opposed to $135 a day with Hospice.

Hospice of Acadiana is the only non-profit hospice in the state, which means it will be saddled with the overflow of patients with nowhere to go. Regardless of socio-economic status, Representative Terry Landry says it's about providing end-of-life services to everyone. 

“Rich, poor, middle class, there are people who are struck with cancer and this is what these services and this program gives people dignity and options on how their life comes to an end,” said Landry.

A candlelight vigil bringing attention to potentially devastating cuts will be held January 23rd from 4:00pm to 6:30pm at the steps of the state Capitol. The vigil is open to the public.

Caroline Balchunas

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