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The Associated Press November 4, 2010, 4:27PM ET

Louisiana lawmakers question $16M in health cuts

Louisiana lawmakers said Thursday they're concerned about the Jindal administration's plans to shut down a $16 million program that pays doctors to coordinate patient care.

The program, called CommunityCARE, gives doctors, mainly pediatricians, an extra $3 monthly payment per patient to manage their care in the state's Medicaid program. It began statewide during former Gov. Mike Foster's administration as a way to improve primary care, eliminate costly emergency room visits and shrink duplicative services.

CommunityCARE will end Dec. 1, as part of a series of budget cuts in the health department.

State Sens. Willie Mount and Sherri Cheek said they're worried the program elimination could damage patient care and persuade some doctors to quit accepting Medicaid patients because they're getting paid less to see them.

Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein said there's no evidence the CommunityCARE program improved health care for the 750,000 patients enrolled in it. He called it ineffective.

"We're not seeing the benefits that the program was originally intended to produce," Greenstein told the Senate Finance Committee, which was combing through budget cut plans.

The program elimination will shrink state expenses in the Department of Health and Hospitals by $3.5 million, and the state will lose additional federal matching funds. Greenstein said he didn't expect the cut to change how doctors manage care for Medicaid recipients.

"Why wouldn't we improve the program, as opposed to cutting the program?" asked Mount, D-Lake Charles. "Something just doesn't connect to me."

DHH has been working on an alternate program for coordinating patient care that would run Medicaid as insurance-based managed care, but it's unclear when that program will begin because of opposition from health care providers.

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