First it was the closure of Southeast Louisiana Hospital, shutting off mental health services to residents of the state’s most densely populated area, then there was the move to “partner” state hospitals across the state with private facilities, followed by an unsuccessful attempt to terminate Hospice care.
Now Gov. Bobby Jindal, in submitting his executive budget, has announced intentions to cease immunizing the state’s indigent children at parish health units throughout the state.
Instead, private pediatricians will take over the duties of immunizing children under the state’s Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.
Through the VFC program, vaccine is made available at no charge to enrolled public and private health care providers for eligible children, according to the Department of Health and Hospitals web page.
Children 18 years of age and younger who are Medicaid eligible, uninsured, American Indian or native Alaskan are eligible for VFC.
But even if the immunizations themselves remain free, pediatricians will probably charge for an office visit—particularly those who do not accept Medicaid patients.
The cuts to the program were included in the Executive Budget presented to the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget on Feb. 22. “One of the items included (in the budget) was restructuring of the administration of the DHH Office of Public Health’s (OPH) Vaccines for Children program,” said a statement released by DHH on Wednesday.
“Under the proposed restructuring, children who received immunizations at parish health units would be transitioned to receive immunizations by their private pediatricians or health care providers, where 92 percent of children already receive their immunizations through the program,” the statement said.
The DHH web page indicated that parish health units provide only about 5 percent of all immunizations statewide.
“The DHH Office of Public Health recently sent pediatric immunizations providers a notice letting them know this was proposed as an element of the State’s fiscal year budget,” DHH’s statement said.
“The proposal is on the table,” a DHH spokesperson added.
“Providers administer the bulk of their childhood vaccines in July and August as part of back-to-school preparations, so OPH wanted providers to be aware of this proposed program restructuring in advance,” the statement released by DHH said.
The final budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2013, will not be determined until the legislative session which begins on April 8, DHH said. “Until the legislature passes a final operating budget for FY-14, exact details of the elements involved will not be discernible,” the statement said.
Efforts to learn the administrative cost of the immunization program at the parish health units also were not immediately successful but federal VFC programs provide the vaccine to doctors and other providers at no costs.