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Lawmakers vs. Health Industry: Goliath 1, David 1

Ming Wang

We’re struggling to find ways to pay for health care and balance it against the other needs of the state. The fiscal note says this could generate as much as 100-million in a given year.”

Ascension Parish Representative Tony Bacala said, as he presented his bill requiring the Louisiana Department of Health to move to managed care programs for those with long-term health needs on Wednesday.

We have about 30,000 people in nursing homes right now that we pay $173 a day, as the average,” he told members of the House Health and Welfare Committee. “We have 30,000 people on waiting lists for some form of long-term care. Their preference – 90% of the seniors – prefer home health over institutionalization.”

Moving to managed care would buck the nursing home industry’s long and large influence over Louisiana's long-term health care regulations, as documented in a recent series inThe Advocate. And Mark Berger with the Louisiana Nursing Home Association did speak against the bill.

LNHA has studied long-term care for years,” Berger told the committee. “Our overwhelming conclusion is that managed long-term care is not good for Louisiana from a provider perspective and a budgetary perspective.”

The House Health Committee killed the bill.

But they weren’t as reluctant to take on another sector of health care industry a bit later, when River Ridge Representative Kirk Talbot brought his bill requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to divulge some of their costs.

The study I’m looking at of what drug industries spend on R&D says the drug industry spends 1.3% of its budget on basic research, but 20 to 40-percent on advertisements and related activities,” Talbot said of the drugmakers collectively known as PhRMA.

Committee members wanted to know if Talbot's bill would result in lower prescription costs to citizens and the state.

The things that we can do to lower the cost of drugs, they’re all federal things. The only thing that we can do in this room is request that drug companies report transparently the cost of research and development to justify prices.”

Despite PhRMA, its member companies, LABI, and NFIB submitting red cards of opposition to the bill, that measure is now headed to the House floor.