From a proposal to limit junk food in school vending machines to a plan to use local health care funds to improve primary care to restructuring long term care and reducing the cost of prescription drugs, every bill in Gov. Blanco’s Health Care Reform package received legislative approval.

Dr. Fred Cerise, Secretary of the Department of Health and chairman of the Health Care Reform Panel, said the just-ended session was an endorsement of the goals and priorities set by the Panel over the past year.

“I am extremely pleased by the support that Gov. Blanco’s health care agenda received by our representatives and senators,” Cerise said. “The result is that we can now provide care to more people who are uninsured, improve and expand long-term care options and give local communities more control over health care spending and services.”

Cerise said the Framework for Healthcare bill (SB 270 by Sen. McPherson) is an important, innovative approach to address health care for Louisiana’s uninsured citizens.

“This measure encourages local solutions to help Louisiana’s uninsured citizens and families. Once we receive federal approval, local communities will be allowed to identify and leverage new and existing local funds to attract federal matching dollars. This money will then be reinvested to increase access to primary care, provide insurance coverage to more citizens and ultimately improve the overall health of our citizens,” said Cerise.

Reforming long term care for the elderly and for people with disabilities was reflected in several bills. These include transferring the licensure of community-based providers to LDH from the Department of Social Services, updates the state law that protects the rights of people with developmental disabilities, creates a registry of direct care workers, addresses the shortage of direct care workers by allowing them to perform some selected health care tasks such as administering medications, and directs the department to begin establishing an Office for Elderly Long Term Care Services.

Another measure, healthy vending, served to highlight the attention given to health care during the session, while generating much public discussion. In an effort to address the burgeoning problem of obesity, Senate Bill 146 by Sen. Diana Bajoie requires healthy snacks and beverages in Louisiana public school vending machines.

“Louisiana has enacted one of the most stringent public school vending policies in the nation,” Cerise said. “This legislation marks significant progress in addressing the problem of overweight and obese students.
Our goal was to get 100 percent healthy snacks and beverages in all Louisiana public schools. We succeeded in elementary and middle schools, while achieving a 50-50 mix of healthy and sugared snacks and beverages in high schools.”

The full health care reform package that was adopted by the legislature is outlined below.

Framework for Healthcare (SB 270 by Senator McPherson) – This bill allows local communities to leverage existing or new local funds such as local taxes or and invest them in local health care efforts. With federal approval, this plan will allow local communities to plan, fund and control the way health care is delivered in their area.

Transfer of Long Term Care Licensing (HB 528 by Rep. Doerge) – This legislation transfers licensing for providers of personal care attendants, supervised independent living, adult day care, family support services and respite care from the Department of Social Services to the Department of Health and Hospitals. This will reduce fragmentation by consolidating licensing for Medicaid-funded long term care into one agency.

Update of MR/DD Law (SB 190 by Sen. Broome) – This legislation serves to update, clarify and reorganize the law on services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Overdue for 20 years, this measure provides for a Developmental Disabilities Services System that values all people with developmental disabilities and affirms and protects their rights and privileges as citizens.

Direct Service Workers (HB 697 by Rep. M. Guillory) – This legislation addresses the problem of the current shortage of certain health care professionals. By permitting some direct service workers to perform selected health care tasks (with oversight by a registered nurse), more of the elderly and those with disabilities can safely receive basic medical care and services in their homes.

Registry for Direct Service Workers (SB 271 by Sen. McPherson) – This legislation creates a registry for direct service workers in home and community-based settings. A Web-based system will allow individuals needing home and community-based services to check whether their worker has met the background check and training requirements, as well as determine if he or she has any record of  abuse, neglect or exploitation. 

Office for Elderly Long Term Care Services (SCR 41 by Sen. Bajoie) – This legislation directs LDH to plan for implementing an office reporting to the Secretary that has full responsibility for programs and budgets that impact long-term care and the elderly. The Office will have administrative, programmatic, budgetary, and policy development authority over the complete array of Medicaid-funded long term care services for older adults and adults with disabilities.

Healthy Vending in Schools (SB 146 by Sen. Bajoie) – Only healthy snacks and beverages can now be sold in public school vending machines. One of the most stringent public school vending policies in the nation, elementary and middle schools can now only sell healthy snacks and beverages in vending machines, stores and concession stands operated during the regular school day. It further requires that at least half of the snacks and beverage options in high schools be healthy.

Medicaid Preferred Drug List (HB 369 by Rep. Durand) – The current Medicaid Preferred Drug List includes 23 drug classes that are reviewed for clinical effectiveness and cost efficiency. The list allows the department to negotiate better prices for these medications from drug manufacturers. Until passage of this measure, two drug classes; atypical antipsychotic and hepatitis C drugs were excluded from this list. It is anticipated that adding these drug classes to the PDL will save the Medicaid program more than $10 million annually while continuing to ensure that recipients have access to the drugs they need.