LA officials fight over New Orleans hospital plans

Disagreements over the future of the Louisiana healthcare system temporarily came to a halt yesterday, when Gov. Kathleen Blanco and U.S. Sen. David Vitter agreed to begin planning for a new teaching hospital in downtown New Orleans. Vitter and Blanco intend to give Louisiana State University an initial $74 million to buy land and hire architects, the first steps in the building process. Gov. Blanco expects to give LSU another $226 million in federal money, once the school has developed a business plan describing how they'd run the hospital. The move is something of an end-run around some major obstacles; the state senate just last week rejected a plan to give LSU $300 million in federal block-grant financing.

This truce, however, may be short lived. Despite agreeing to the initial funding, Vitter is against giving LSU the additional $226 million, unless Blanco and her team agree to redistribute $1 billion in state and federal Medicaid dollars currently used for the state's charity hospital system. Vitter and others would like to see at least some of the Medicaid money go to private insurance vouchers, giving patients the chance to go to any facility. (Right now indigent patients must seek their care through the Charity system.) Gov. Blanco, for her part, says the insurance approach is too expensive to work without a big infusion of federal cash. She told the new hospital "will play a significant role in our efforts to redesign Louisiana's healthcare system."

For more information on the hospital controversy:
- read this piece from The Times-Picayune

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