Despite legitimate concerns raised in the Nov. 21 news article "Costliest Part of Gulf Rebuilding Yet to Come," those of us in Louisiana charged with caring for our state's frail, elderly and disabled are alarmed about the delays in relief disbursement. The secondary headline on the article -- "Who Will Foot the Bill Is Still Unclear" -- deepens our growing distress.

It has been nearly three months since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, and Louisiana's health care system remains in chaos. Dozens of hospitals, nursing homes, group homes, mental health clinics and pharmacies remain closed while those in operation are barely getting by. Quality care is in jeopardy, and the safety net protecting our most vulnerable citizens is in tatters.

While patients and providers await Medicaid reimbursement for care administered to Katrina survivors and to residents of Katrina-impacted parishes, incredibly, cuts of as much as 9 percent are being proposed in state Medicaid funding. Louisiana already has the lowest Medicaid funding rate in the nation.

Unless we receive the federal disaster relief by Dec. 15, these new state Medicaid cuts will take effect. Hospitals, nursing homes and other health care providers could be forced to close, patient care could become unavailable in some communities and thousands of jobs would be in jeopardy.

The stakes for all Louisianians in need of health care have never been higher. We need the relief that Washington promised.


Executive Director

Louisiana Nursing Home Association

Baton Rouge, La.