Whichever company is chosen to run Jefferson Parish’s public hospitals will gain a unique asset in a medical market that has seen its share of turmoil over the years: a pair of established hospitals that would give the new operator almost a full health care network overnight.
There are broad similarities between how such a system would work under HCA and Louisiana Children’s Medical Center, the two top contenders to take over the hospitals. But the two applicants’ plans for fixing the financial problems that led officials to consider privatizing East Jefferson General Hospital and West Jefferson Medical Center in the first place show distinctly different strategies.
The primary issue for both public hospitals is an overabundance of patients who rely on government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare to pay for their health care needs. The key question is whether the hospitals need to alter that dynamic by bringing in more customers with private insurance, as HCA contends, or simply by bringing the medical centers into a network where the existing payer mix is less of a problem, the basis of Children’s plan.
Each approach would play into the larger strategy the companies are pursuing in the New Orleans area, a market dominated by regional giant Ochsner Health Systems. And while much of the debate over which company should take over the hospitals has been focused on HCA’s for-profit model versus Children’s nonprofit status, in purely financial terms the goal for either is to improve the bottom line and position the hospitals to compete with Ochsner.
The final decision on which of the companies will run the Jefferson hospitals remains the subject of much political maneuvering.