The Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center furloughed 459 people, including 139 doctors, or 18.5%, of a medical staff of 750. Acting Chancellor Larry Hollier said Hurricane Katrina wiped out seven of the system's teaching hospitals; five of them, located in New Orleans, "are out for the long term." They include Lindy Boggs, Memorial, Charity, University and the Veterans Affairs medical centers. Altogether, the system has lost $100 million in revenue, he said. Hollier said he does not expect "another wave" of furloughs in the near future, but not without interim funding. "I anticipate we will get some support for this because of the needs the state has," he said. "The real tragedy is that many of these people worked so hard and lost their homes and now this."
Greenspan: Medicare in danger
The predictability of an aging workforce, when coupled with the unpredictable nature of medical costs, could jeopardize the future of Medicare benefits that retirees have come to count on, according to outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. In a prepared speech, Greenspan painted an uncertain future for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. The problem, he said, is that while the U.S. can closely predict the number of Medicare beneficiaries over the next 25 years, little else is known about the generations that will come after. "The soaring cost of medical care for an aging population is certain to place enormous demands on our nation's resources and to exert pressure on the budget that economic growth alone is unlikely to eliminate," Greenspan said. He added that productivity developments on the healthcare front would help alleviate the impending budgetary strains. Still, anything short of that could serve to hobble the trio of spending programs. "So long as healthcare costs continue to grow faster than the economy as a whole, they will exert budget pressures that seem increasingly likely to make current fiscal policy unsustainable," Greenspan said. In fiscal 2005, federal outlays for Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security totaled about 8% of gross domestic product, Greenspan said. The Office of Management and Budget predicts that the share will rise to 9.5% by 2015, and to about 13 % by 2030.
Grassley seeks transplant probe
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) called on HHS to investigate scandals involving the liver transplant programs at two California hospitals. In a letter to HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration, Grassley urged a detailed review of the programs at the University of California at Irvine Medical Center and St. Vincent Medical Center, Los Angeles. An HRSA spokesman said the agency was "working through all the requests the senator has made." UC-Irvine shut down its liver transplant program last month after Medicare halted payment for the procedures. The program reportedly turned down dozens of organs that might have saved patients who subsequently died. St. Vincent also decided to close its program last month, acknowledging that doctors misallocated a liver to a lower-priority patient in violation of standards set by the United Network for Organ Sharing.