Hospice care extended for state Medicaid patients

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Hope Roberson reflected on the last days she spent with her father-in-law James Wednesday afternoon on the steps of the State Capitol Building.

"My sister-in-law just had a baby and he was able to hold him and play with him," said Roberson.

James who lived in Albany, received hospice care in his finals days as part of Medicaid. Care that Hope says played a huge role in allowing James and his family to make the most of his limited time.

"From the staff to saying you're doing the right thing to the social workers to follow up and the chaplains to come out and pray. It's everything," added Roberson.

Hospice care for James and other patients in the state relying on Medicaid was scheduled to stop February 1st, but the Department of Health and Hospitals announced an extension that will keep the current plan in place until changes can be made later this spring.

"We want to make sure we're preserving the benefit for the people that need it most by having discipline and care plans that are proper and authorized the right way," said DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein.

Greenstein says the goal for the current plan is reform and reform is alright with proponents who say cutting it altogether is not the answer.

"The costs were going to get way out of line.  Patients who really didn't want to be in an emergency room or intensive care unit can now be comfortably cared for at home for considerably less money," said Sherill Phelps of the Louisiana-Mississippi Hospice Care Organization.

And receiving that care is something Hope says her father-in-law would not have received without Medicaid.

"If everyone with private insurance and everyone with Medicaid can have hospice out poor should be able to as well," said Roberson.

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