The Louisiana Senate approved by a 36-2 vote a bill that for the first time would allow state public hospitals to charge some patients -- those with incomes above 200% of the federal poverty level -- and to adjust their budgets without state approval. If approved in its current form by the House, the measure would eliminate a 77-year-old law that guarantees medical care for any state resident, regardless of income or insurance, at any of the state's public hospitals. About 85% of the system's patients are uninsured or on Medicaid. People with higher incomes would be billed on a sliding scale. Louisiana State University, which assumed management of the state public hospital system in 1997, has been lobbying for more financial and management flexibility for the past two years. The LSU Health Sciences Center Health Care Services Division operates nine of the state's 10 public hospitals. -- by Michael Romano
La. may ease limits on public hospitals' finances
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