Politics 12.03.2008


Lafayette City-Parish President Joey Durel was one of more than 200 U.S. mayors to participate in a recent msnbc.com survey about what city leaders want from President-elect Barack Obama. Msnbc.com writes that it “queried more than 1,000 mayors by e-mail just after Election Day, seeking their top two suggestions for the president-elect’s ‘to do’ list.” In all, 205 mayors in 48 states and Puerto Rico responded. The economy (97 mentions) and infrastructure (75 mentions) were the most frequent issues raised in the survey. Here’s what Durel had to say:

“1. Finish Interstate 49 from I-10 all the way to New Orleans. Currently I-49 ends at I-10 in Lafayette and turns into U.S. Hwy. 90. This is a dangerous road with heavy traffic because of its proximity to New Orleans and the oil and gas industry in Southeast Louisiana. It is an important energy corridor and serves as the main hurricane evacuation route for much of that part of the state. This is also good for much of mid-America for getting farm products and other goods to the Port of Orleans.

“2. The city of Lafayette is installing fiber optics to every home and business in the city that wants it. We will give our citizens, peer to peer connectivity of 100mbs — for free! This is being done through our city-owned utility and we will have something 80 to 90% of America won’t have 20 years from now. The federal government needs to do all it can to encourage municipalities to do what we are doing.”

The free 100mbs peer-to peer service refers to LUS’ plan to allow higher speed interconnectivity among its subscribers for no additional charge. Durel, who is not a fan of MSNBC, says that he initially ignored two e-mails from the news organization before finally responding to the survey. He says while he wants to take every opportunity to promote I-49 and Lafayette’s fiber-to-the-home project, he isn’t holding his breath waiting for Obama’s response. “[The survey] seemed to be a pretty insignificant thing as far as I was concerned,” he says.


The reviews are far from all in, but the Jindal administration’s newly-proposed public health care restructuring, titled Louisiana Health First, got some positive feedback from the nonprofit advocacy group Council for a Better Louisiana. CABL issued a statement noting that the plan, which is still only outlined in broad strokes and yet to be approved by the federal government, should prompt a healthy debate on needed reforms.

CABL writes: “At the very least, CABL believes the new plan is a step into uncharted territory for Louisiana if for no other reason than the fact it’s the most comprehensive reform plan put on the table by any governor in memory. Is it a silver bullet? Does it address every issue? Does it solve every problem? The answer is no, of course, to all. But it sets a direction that, if successful in the major areas it addresses, would move us much farther down a path we need to go.”

The Jindal administration announced the Louisiana Health First initiative last month after several health providers filed public records requests to get details on the plan. The Department of Health and Hospitals has now posted a 67-page concept paper on Louisiana Health First on its Web site.


Acadiana’s legislative delegation was in Baton Rouge Monday morning to learn more about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s new initiative to reform the way health care is delivered to the state’s citizenry. The full House got its first crack at asking questions about Louisiana Health First during Monday’s special briefing. Local lawmakers, however, will probably do more listening than anything else.

That’s because the new initiative is focusing first on the regions with the greatest needs, which means the core parishes of Acadiana aren’t exactly in the picture. Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine says the pilot program’s reach could grow depending on its future outcomes, but a spotlight must immediately be placed on underserved areas like New Orleans and Lake Charles.

In short, it’s in no way a slight to the Acadiana region, he says. “The regions are proposed based on the number of Medicaid beneficiaries that live in those regions and the number and breadth of providers available in those regions,” Levine adds.

Levine also says it’s important to note that elements of the new DHH proposal supported by the governor will benefit all areas of the state, so the Lafayette area can look forward to a trickle-down effect in coming years. Additionally, as part of the new plan, DHH will be implementing disease management initiatives in all regions of the state. “The initial locations are just that — initial locations,” Levine says. “As DHH is able to demonstrate the coordinated care network program’s effectiveness, it would then recommend expansion to other parts of the state.”

The initiative focuses on expanding health insurance coverage for Louisiana’s working poor. It also seeks to offer Medicaid consumers choices on insurance coverage, rather than sticking them in a government-imposed, one-size-fits-all system.

In a prepared statement, Jindal also said the program will address the human element of health care by working to reduce fraud, decreasing system abuse and ensuring that providers are more involved in patient care. From an administrative side, the initiative’s goals include making the new charity hospital in New Orleans a competitive academic institution, rewarding providers for better health outcomes and increasing transparency in the Medicaid system by making performance measures available on the Internet. “We know the statistics, but behind these statistics there are real people,” Jindal says. “Louisiana is last in health care outcomes, we have far too many people with no health insurance at all, and this system will not improve on its own.”

Contributors: Jeremy Alford and Nathan Stubbs