It is now time for the state to pull back the veil on how it funds its two largest safety net healthcare systems.

There has been much controversy and consternation in recent years regarding equity in the funding levels of the north and south Louisiana safety net hospitals. Data indicating as much as a 32 cents to one dollar funding disparity has gone largely undisputed.

According to the Louisiana Department of Health’s (LDH) data for fiscal year 2018, University Medical Center (UMC) in New Orleans receives $136.7 million more than University Health System (UHS). We have seen data which suggests that this disparity in funding exists even while UHS sees about twice as many patients.

In the interests of both north Louisiana healthcare patients and medical students, this gross disparity must be confirmed, and if proven as I suspect, must be addressed.

This is why I have drafted and introduced House Bill 885, the Safety Net Hospital Preservation Act, to prevent north Louisiana from being short-changed by a non-transparent funding mechanism.

House Bill 885 aims to determine if a funding disparity exists based upon the level of service provided and number of patients served at our state’s two largest public-private partnership hospital systems in north and south Louisiana.

Not only does the bill investigate the disparity, it offers insight on how these entities are funded and offers several levels of review, which will be backed by our Legislative Auditor. Furthermore, it will provide a more transparent and fair formula for distributing the state’s supplemental funding.

Privatization is working in North Louisiana as evidenced by a viable business model the operators have achieved with limited resources, and the advancements in patient care such as decreased wait times and increases in the types of services offered.

It is my hope that this bill will ensure that our operators who have taken on the state’s safety net healthcare system are adequately and equally funded based on their efficiency and output of care.

It is time to depoliticize the funding for safety net hospitals.

I ask that my fellow legislators and citizens of Louisiana consider the Safety Net Hospital Preservation Act our opportunity to better position and sustain safety net healthcare funding and graduate medical education for the future.