UPDATE: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration scrapped plans Wednesday to shutter the state’s Medicaid hospice program in February, meaning the state will continue to provide end-of-life care to people on their death beds who can’t afford private insurance:
Jindal’s health secretary Bruce Greenstein made the announcement 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 grant funding to cover the hospice costs this year.
Cheers went up across the small crowd of people gathered in what they expected to be a somber vigil. Instead, they celebrated.
Some of the poorest, and most vulnerable people in the state of Louisiana are about to face a horrific turn of events that will impact the way that they live, and the way they spend the final days of their lives.
Starting February 1st, Medicaid will no longer pay for hospice care in Louisiana. 7News looks into what is behind the falling budget axe and what it means to dying patients.
The changes are because of a mid-year budget gap. Medicaid hospice is just one stripped program. Sherrill Phelps with the Louisiana-Mississippi Hospice Association says this will deprive terminally ill patients of the opportunity to die comfortably and with care. "They're deserving to have the help and the support and the financial payment to provide that care for those people," he said.
Louisiana will become one of only two states to eliminate Medicaid hospice. Arizona was in that mix, but has already reinstituted it because it costs more. "You're going to pick them up and bring them to the emergency room, to the hospital, which costs considerably more than the $140/day paid for by the state for the Medicaid program," said Phelps.
The hospice care changes will not affect Medicare, which covers most people over the age of 60.
There will be a candlelight vigil at the State Capitol steps Wednesday from 4:00 P.M. to 6:30 P.M. to protest the elimination of Medicaid hospice.