BATON ROUGE, La.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration scrapped plans to shutter Louisiana’s Medicaid hospice program in February. Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein announced the reversal as hospice program supporters were gathering for a candlelight vigil on the state capitol steps to protest the cut. Greenstein said his department will use federal grant funding to continue the services for the poor and terminally ill. Cheers went up across the small crowd of people gathered in what they expected to be a somber vigil. The cut would have made Louisiana one of only two states that don’t pay for hospice care through its Medicaid program, and the plan faced strong resistance from state senators, who were seeking ways to avoid shuttering hospice to new adult recipients Feb. 1. Sen. Fred Mills Jr., vice chairman of the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee, walked into the vigil crowd to deliver the news that the Jindal administration had backed away from plans to close the program. Jindal made a series of budget reductions in midDecember to help close a nearly $166 million deficit in the current fiscal year that ends June 30. Many of the cuts fell on the Department of Health and Hospitals. Oklahoma is the only state that doesn’t offer hospice care to adults through Medicaid, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The health department intends to make changes to the hospice services to shrink the costs of care and improve the program, Greenstein said. Among the planned changes is a focus on community-based, at-home care. Nursing home residents will not be eligible for hospice care through Medicaid, though it might be available through Medicare.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration backed away from plans to end Louisiana’s hospice program.