REMARKS BY:

The Honorable Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services

PLACE:

New Orleans Clinics

DATE:

April 5, 2007

Statement by Secretary Mike Leavitt on his Visit to New Orleans Clinics

I am here today to revisit first-hand the direct and primary care needs here in New Orleans. This is my 12th trip here in 18 months. Every time I come, I am impressed with the tenacity of the people of New Orleans as they work to recover from Katrina. The health care system is an important part of rebuilding efforts, and I know everyone is working hard on that.

Since Katrina hit, HHS has brought more than $1 billion to assist the state with health care in the wake of the hurricanes. We have worked to provide both short-term care, and promote longer term reform. Just this past February 1, in response to recommendations of the Louisiana Healthcare Redesign Collaborative and others, we distributed $160 million to the Gulf Coast region, including $71 million to Louisiana, to address wage index problems, and $15 million for primary care provider recruitment and retention in the greater New Orleans area.

We have an additional amount of some $200 Million in Deficit Reduction Act funds available to help with Gulf Coast recovery. Iím here today to see first-hand the state of primary care in Greater New Orleans, to assist in our determination of how best to distribute these remaining funds so that they quickly get to their best use.

Certainly, some of these funds need to go to address wage pressures faced by providers in the states affected by the hurricanes, as well as to help with provider recruitment and retention challenges. But in addition, I can tell you that what Iíve seen today confirms my impression that a significant portion of these funds must be dedicated to addressing primary care needs in Greater New Orleans.

This additional Deficit Reduction Act funding is very significant; but it will provide Louisiana with assistance for a limited period of time. I want to caution that this is emergency funding for the Gulf Coast Region. It helps provides a bridge to the future. But the people of Louisiana must decide what is on the other side of that bridge.

Louisiana is faced with an unprecedented opportunity to improve its health care system for the present and future. Affordable, accessible quality care is possible. Now, it is up to the state of Louisiana to make a positive change.

Last revised: April 6, 2007