By Marsha Shuler
Capitol news bureau
August 28, 2012
The Louisiana Legislature should consider calling itself into special session if the Jindal administration does not provide answers on its plans for patient care at public hospitals hit by budget cuts, a state senator said Monday.
“If we can’t get information about where care will be provided and how patients are going to get there, I’m going to urge my colleagues to call themselves into special session,” said state Sen. Ben Nevers, whose district includes LSU’s hard-hit Lallie Kemp Medical Center in Independence.
Budget cuts, ordered by Gov. Bobby Jindal, take away one-third of the hospital’s budget of just over $40 million. The LSU Board of Supervisors approved reductions that would eliminate the hospital oncology unit, its HIV treatment program as well as other health care services.
Senate President John Alario said legislators should have a plan before considering a special session. “It would be a mistake for the Legislature to call itself in to have a debate rather than having a solution,” said Alario, R-Westwego.
Alario said he wants to know what Nevers has in mind.
Alario said it only takes a majority vote for legislators to call themselves into session, but it takes a two-thirds vote to override Jindal’s decisions.
Late last week, state Democratic Party chairwoman Karen Peterson called for legislators to return to the State Capitol to consider eliminating some tax exemptions to free up money for health care. A legislative panel is in the midst of a study of the more than $1 billion in tax exemptions on the books today.
Nevers said he’s asked that the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee open hearings on the cuts imposed as a result of a sudden drop in federal support for the state’s Medicaid health insurance program for the poor.
“I felt like we should have been a part of the discussion” on how to deal with the Medicaid reduction, said Nevers, D-Bogalusa. “All this was released in a press conference.”
Nevers said people are going to end up in the emergency rooms of other area hospitals absent a patient care delivery plan.
Alario acknowledged frustration among some lawmakers where the cutbacks affect their districts.
“There are a couple of pockets like that in the state,” Alario said. “The administration had to make some hard decisions. I’m not sure that the Legislature would have had a much better solution than this.
“It certainly would have been nice if they had conferred with them,” Alario said.