Legislative efforts to reform the State’s long-term care system, making it easier and safer to receive care at home rather than in an institution, have been signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.

Gov. Blanco introduced five measures during the 2005 Legislative Session that were developed in accordance with the recommendations included in Louisiana’s Plan for Immediate Action: Providing Long-term Care Choices for the Elderly and People with Disabilities. The plan followed recommendations made by the Governor’s Health Care Reform Panel.

“Each bill was designed to create the foundation necessary for Louisiana to offer quality home and community-based long term care services,” Blanco said. “These ground-breaking bills were strongly supported by the state’s advocates for long-term care reform and various health care providers, and represent the first steps toward real reform of our long-term system of care.”

A summary of each measure is outlined below.

ACT 483 (HB 528 by Rep. Doerge) 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 consolidate licensing for Medicaid-funded long term care into one agency.

ACT 451 (HB 697 by Rep. M. Guillory) 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.

ACT 306 (SB 271 by Sen. McPherson) 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 workers have met the background check and training requirements, as well as determine if the workers have a past history of abuse, neglect or exploitation. 

Also, Sen. Diana Bajoie authored a resolution directing the Department of Health to reorganize its programs and budgets for long-term care into a single office that reports to the Secretary. 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.

Sen. Sharon Weston Broome’s ACT 128 updates, clarifies and reorganizes the law on services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Overdue for 20 years, this measure provides for a Developmental Disabilities Service System that values all people with developmental disabilities and affirms and protects their rights and privileges as citizens.

Kay Marcel, chairperson of the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council, said her members are pleased Gov. Blanco recognizes the need to reform long-term care in Louisiana by putting people first.

“Of particular importance to individuals with developmental disabilities is Act 128 that updates the law on services for people with developmental disabilities providing for a system that values them and affirms and protects their rights and privileges as citizens of our great state,” Marcel said. “The passage and signing of Act 451 is also very important so that individuals with disabilities and those who are elderly will be able to safely access basic medical care and services in their own homes. We look forward to supporting the Governor’ continued efforts to accomplish reforms that will improve access, effectiveness, choice and quality of long term care supports.”

That position was echoed by Earl White, president of Louisiana’s chapter of the AARP.

“All of us at AARP Louisiana are quite pleased Gov. Blanco has supported significant reform in long-term care in our state. These bills being signed today represent a true milestone in Louisiana health care. On behalf of our nearly 500,000 Louisiana members we sincerely thank the Governor and the members of the Legislature.”

Warren Hebert, president of the HomeCare Association of Louisiana said the Governor’s has been aggressive and courageous in her campaign to reform care for the elderly and for people with disabilities.

“According to Hubert H. Humphrey, ‘The moral test of good government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twig of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, needy and the handicapped.’ Gov. Blanco’s reform efforts have moved Louisiana forward on that moral compass, and is a major step towards expanding choices for care at home and in the community,” Hebert quoted.

The Arc of Louisiana applauded Gov. Blanco’s efforts to improve long-term care options for people with developmental disabilities.

“The Governor’s legislation begins the process of long-term supports and services reform and courageously sets the tone for a better tomorrow for people of all ages who depend on and deserve an array of quality long-term care options,” said Julia Kenny, executive director.