Jeremy Alford

Bill would allow local control of University Medical Center

by Jeremy Alford

Legislation expected to be debated this week in a House committee would allow a local health services district to take over Lafayette’s charity hospital. University Medical Center, like others in the charity system, is operated and controlled by the Louisiana State University Board of Supervisors. There have long been conversations about local control in other parts of the state, but the proposal by Metairie Republican Rep. John LaBruzzo marks the first time in recent memory that the House Health and Welfare Committee considers the concept for Lafayette.

LaBruzzo says he was merely “floating the idea to generate a dialogue,” and his House Bill 808 doesn’t have the support of the Department of Health and Hospitals or LSU. But he says his bill would create regionalized special care and allow LSU to focus its resources on other needy areas. “It helps LSU because there would not be as many hospitals to handle and they could focus on the remaining hospitals and probably offer more services at the existing hospitals,” he says.

In addition to Lafayette’s University Medical Center, the legislation would also create a local opt-out for the Leonard J. Chabert Medical Center in Houma, Lallie Kemp Regional Medical Center in Independence, Bogalusa Medical Center, E.A. Conway Medical Center in Monroe and Huey P. Long Medical Center in Alexandria. The opt-out, however, would be voluntary. “If they want to stay with LSU, they can do that,” LaBruzzo says. “I don’t have a gun to anyone’s head.”

If the bill passes, the parish governing authority would be allowed to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement with other local entities to create a special hospital service district. Parish governments could also contract with an existing hospital service district, of which there are a small handful in the Acadiana region.

The agreement, which would require final approval by DSS, must include referral protocols for the treatment of patients, including where the patient should be treated; detailed financial plans for the payment of medical services for indigent and uninsured patients; and a listing of any and all medical facilities that are willing to participate in providing services to patients seeking care from the district.

If House Bill 808 clears the Legislature this session, it would still require the signature of Gov. Bobby Jindal. The House Health and Welfare Committee is expected to hear the bill Thursday.