Building on yesterday’s
post, can liberal Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards
also become the one who finally frees Louisiana from any vestiges of its
archaic charity hospital system?
Until a few years ago, Louisiana
insisted on continuing its outdated model where anybody could walk into what
then comprised a system of ten hospitals, mostly in urban areas, and receive
free treatment for whatever ailed them, regardless of severity. That system
delivered subpar medicine, in no small part because, as the laws of human
behavior dictate, make something free and people engage in overconsumption of
it. This produced queued care as hospitals became treated like primary care
centers and for any ailment, no matter how minor or even fictional, squeezing
out the more serious cases and promoting wasteful resource use.
Unfortunately, way too many
policy-makers preferred this inefficient use of taxpayer dollars because it
provided superior symbolism, if inferior service delivery, of some asserted commitment
to the “poor,” and also because this could act as a patronage sink and job
machine that politicians in these areas could crow about to secure reelection.
So it took another misfortune, Congressional
repeal of a law that favored Louisiana’s Medicaid funding (ironically
because of the economic bump resulting from the heavy influx of federal aid
from the hurricane disasters of 2005) to shock them out of their complacency,
and former Gov. Bobby
Jindal wisely used this leverage to exit halfway the system.