On Thursday, Louisiana’s House of Representatives passed a resolution to allow LSU to work with the VA to build a world-class medical complex in downtown New Orleans. In spite of an overwhelming 70-33 vote, Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter is up to his old tricks, continuing to place ideology and special interest above advocating for a realistic solution for the future of Louisiana’s health care delivery system. From nola.com:

U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has met several times with HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson in an attempt to kill the project, and said earlier this week that he is optimistic that Jackson will deny the state’s financing request.

Vitter’s opposition is tied to his demand that the state privatize its delivery of public health services. Vitter and the Public Affairs Research Council claim that using public money to purchase private plans for the uninsured would give all Louisianians access to an equal quality of care. Their analysis cherry-picks data from Massachusetts’s recent restructuring of state health care, a situation that is not at all representative of the reality of the problems that face Louisiana. This strategy serves to enrich the private medical professionals who contribute heavily to Senator Vitter, and falls far short of covering all citizens while eliminating their last line of defense against illness and injury. According to Mike Stagg at Democrat2Democrat,

PAR joins with Leavitt and PriceWaterHouse Coopers in wanting to bet the health of several hundred thousand Louisiana residents on an ideologically driven plan (you know, pretending there is a healthcare ‘market’) that is failing in states that don’t have poverty rates as high as we have here and don’t have as high a percentage of uninsured adults as we have here.

There’s no need to add to the response provided by state Senator Joe McPherson:

[Vitter] is playing a strange game of chicken… All I can see him doing is losing us the opportunity to get 300 million in federal dollars that are important to the recovery of New Orleans.

5 thoughts

  1. We have the only congresscritter in the nation who thinks his job is to PREVENT the feds from sending money to his state. He must reside in the eternal sunshine of the Republican mind. Instead of “Vitter, (R-LA),” he should be described as “Vitter, (R-RNC).”

  2. Several local doctors have expressed their concern to me concerning any involvement with the VA. Their stories of many problems in the VA do seem to be seen in the media.

  3. I am elated that Blanco has made the decision to provide the funding for a new Charity, but I am guardedly optimistic about how the medical complex prospects will unfold. What are your opinions on:

    1. Whether the VA will now be persuaded to stick to the original plan and build the $1B joint hospital in downtown New Orleans? Does Vitter’s attempt to put the VA out on Ochsner’s campus or elsewhere have more or less purchase now?

    2. Whether Jindal will continue with the medical complex? That is, now that over $150M will have been sunk into building Charity by the time the next Governor is installed ($75 from the CDBGs, and $75M from this first allocation under Blanco), is there any way that Jindal could pull the plug, assuming that things are moving come next year? Could he do to new Charity-VA what he did to W-16?

    Why are our representatives the only ones in the country that do not have an unabashed chauvinism for their homes?

  4. 1. I think that the proposal to move the VA to Jefferson Parish was a bunch of saber-rattling to get the legislature to stop fooling around with committing the first big of money. Now that so much money has been put towards the downtown location I don’t think that Oschner’s lobby is as influential, though we know where Vitter and Jindal’s constituencies lie.
    2. As we know, Jindal promised not to comment (except when he does) on political issues until the end of the session. I assume that at some point he’ll have to make a stand on this issue, as he was in charge of health care under Foster. Vitter has used this issue to play to his base, and I imagine Jindal won’t pass up the opportunity to comment on something on which he’s perceived to be an expert. Notice that most of the attacks on McPherson’s bill to create a fund to start medical homes hasn’t been very specific on the idea of medical homes. Though the system is largely broken, they can only trot out the trope of a two-tiered discriminatory system to justify privatizing (and therefore bankrupting) state public health.
    I’m glad you brought up W-16 because it’s a perfect example of the disaster that is moving away from preventative and community health in the name of fiscal responsibility or to add value to the shareholders of private hospitals. I’m afraid it is possible he’d try to kill such a large project as Charity, despite the support of the legislature, because even though some money is committed it’s my understanding that there’s a lot of land to be acquired in the meantime.
    [The second link is being funny; cut and paste from here: http://www.louisianaweekly.com/weekly/news/articlegate.pl=3f20040628v%5D

  5. I agree. I think that the VA’s hand will now be forced, and Vitter doesn’t really have a play now that he can’t influence the pursestrings at HUD. I do wonder, though, how much he and Jackson knew about the state’s flexibility in funding the hospital, and whether they would have actually denied Charity if it came to a head.

    Now that the way is ostensibly paved, I worry about Jindal playing to his base, too. For the life of me, I don’t understand why he gets the rap about being such a smarty-pants. I know he was a Rhodes Scholar, but so was Vitter, and he came back from an Oxford education with a newfound respect for REAGAN. Also, I genuinely believe that Jindal actually intended to deliver his own child (I don’t put that sort of calculation past him). What has Jindal done for anyone in this state? In fact, his actions (e.g. closing W-16) have probably harmed more Louisianians in the past 5 years than anyone except maybe George Bush. I really hope Boasso can pull it off, but in any event, I hope that Charity-VA is too far along at that point to risk pulling the plug.

    I can be too much of a Pollyanna, but I think that the land consolidation will go quite smoothly–and I hope I don’t have to eat my words. Baker raised that chimera right when Vitter got on his high horse, but I think that the process will be relatively painless. Blakely and the Mayor are on board, and there is a lot of money available for both the VA and the Charity sites ($174M, by my last count). Also, the properties along Canal and Tulane are mostly block-sized, which means fewer owners. Lastly, there are few historic properties to take into consideration, although the farther towards Mid-City the hospitals go, the more the site will eat into a viable but struggling neighborhood. The new hospital could really also help to revitalize the Tulane-Gravier neighborhood by doing scatter-site redevelopment for doctors, students, and medical residents–an added dimension of development.

    One thing that has been confusing me is the boundaries of the joint hospital site. This image, from the T-P, shows the joint site stopping at Galvez :
    LSU-VA-big
    while other Times-Picayune articles say that the VA site would go all the way to Rocheblave. I’d much rather it stop at Galvez, but it certainly isn’t up to me…

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