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Louisiana to fund Medicaid hospice

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration scrapped plans Wednesday to shutter the state’s Medicaid hospice program in February, meaning the state will continue to provide end-of-life care to people on their death beds who can’t afford private insurance.

Jindal’s health secretary Bruce Greenstein made the announcement as hospice program supporters were gathering for a vigil on the state capitol steps to protest the cut. Greenstein said his department will use grant funding to cover the costs this year.

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Cheers went up across the small crowd of people gathered in what they expected to be a somber vigil.

‘‘I got goose bumps,’’ certified grief counselor and nurse Sue deRada said as she heard the program for the terminally ill would be spared.

‘‘End of life care is just so vital for everybody. It’s sacred. . . . Why would we abandon people at such a critical time?’’ she said.

The cut would have made Louisiana one of only two states that don’t pay for hospice care through its Medicaid program, and the plan faced strong resistance from state senators, who were seeking ways to avoid shuttering hospice.

Oklahoma is currently the only state that doesn’t offer hospice care to adults through Medicaid, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

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