Constitutional amendment battle moving to airwaves

By Jeremy Alford

The Louisiana Hospital Association, Louisiana Nursing Home Association, Louisiana Pharmacists Association, ambulance providers and intermediate care facilities are pooling their resources and planning for a statewide media buy to promote the passage of the first two constitutional amendments on the November ballot.

Sources say the buy will include TV, radio and web, but no specific dollar amount has been set. The hospital association has already launched a website, VoteYes1and2.org. But a major component of the campaign will be on the grassroots level, with face-to-face contacts made in community meetings and other venues.

“We’re not taking this for granted,” said Sean M. Prados, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Louisiana Hospital Association. “We’re going to be doing a lot of education.”

It’ll be a tough fight to grab the attention of voters with a major U.S. Senate race being waged, but the recent headlines involving financial turmoil at hospitals in Baton Rouge and LaPlace will help make the amendments relevant and timely.

According to the Public Affairs Research Council, which has a new guide to the amendments available, Constitutional Amendment No. 1 would give constitutional protection to the Louisiana Medical Assistance Trust Fund. It would also set a baseline compensation rate for nursing homes and other health care providers like ambulance companies that pay a special fee.

One group, Louisianans United for Home Care, is already sponsoring web videos arguing the amendment could make it harder for certain individuals to obtain home care as opposed to institutionalized care.

Constitutional Amendment No. 2 would create the Hospital Stabilization Fund, allowing hospitals to deposit assessments and draw down more federal Medicaid money.

Critics argue this could further open up higher ed and other health care providers to budget cuts, since they wouldn’t have the same protections. To be certain, universities may be wishing they would have done something similar if the second amendment on the ballot passes. 

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