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Louisiana approves regulations on doctor ‘noncompetes,’ a win for Ochsner competitors

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Louisiana approves regulations on doctor ‘noncompetes,’ a win for Ochsner competitors


In a major victory for Louisiana hospitals who compete with the giant Ochsner Health System, the state Legislature on Tuesday approved a bill restricting “noncompete” agreements for physicians — a step supporters say will keep more doctors in the state and improve health care.

The legislation, Senate Bill 165, says physician contracts can only contain the so-called noncompete clauses for up to five years depending on doctors’ specialties. If they leave a job while their contracts contain such a clause, doctors would be subject to those agreements for up to two extra years and would be barred from practicing medicine in as many as three parishes that surround their employer.

Under current law, hospitals can put noncompete clauses into contracts for as long as they wish. And there’s no restriction on the number of parishes the deals can cover, which can bar doctors from moving freely between jobs in Louisiana, supporters of regulation say.

The bill, carried by Sen. Patrick McMath, R-Covington, passed the state House 100-0 Tuesday after initially passing the Senate unanimously, too. It’s the culmination of a years-long battle between Ochsner and its competitors.

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“This has been a long time coming,” said Rep. Stephanie Berault, R-Slidell, who presented the bill for McMath in the House. “It’s an important piece of legislation (not just) for our physicians, but for patients and the people of Louisiana.”

In a statement on the vote provided by a spokesperson, Ochsner Chief Physician Executive Dr. Robert Hart said the health system makes “significant investments in our care teams and specialty programs so we can continue to attract and retain top talent.”

“We will continue to work with our physicians, the Louisiana Department of Health and the state legislature to ensure access to high-quality care in our communities,” Hart said.

The hospital system is a staunch believer in noncompete agreements, deploying them regularly with physicians they employ. Ochsner and other defenders of the practice say it lets hospitals limit risk, ensuring they aren’t investing big money into training and supporting doctors only to see them leave and take their patients to another nearby clinic.

Supporters of rolling back noncompete agreements counter that they force doctors out of the state, especially as Ochsner has grown its footprint to include a wide swath of Louisiana. Many agreement provisions say that once an Ochsner doctor leaves, they can’t work for two years in any parish where Ochsner has a presence.

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The outcome of McMath’s legislation, which heads now to the desk of Gov. Jeff Landry, was cheered by some of Ochsner’s main competitors. Ryan Cross, a lobbyist with Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System, which runs Our Lady of the Lake Health, called the vote “a big win for patients and physicians across Louisiana,” and said the legislation will keep strong physicians in the state. 

The bill now heads to the governor for his signature or veto. A Landry spokesperson did not immediately respond to a question about the governor’s position on the bill. But McMath, the bill’s sponsor, said that Landry’s appointed health secretary, Dr. Ralph Abraham, was pivotal in marshaling support for the bill.

The debate over hospital noncompete clauses last surfaced in 2021 when a bill by Rep. Mark Wright, R-Covington, proposed similar restrictions on the practice. Wright’s House Bill 483 laid out a time limit and a buyout provision for certain doctors and sought to exempt rural hospitals that use noncompete clauses from the limits.

After passing the House, that bill died in a Senate committee.

McMath cast it as a means to bolster care in rural and underserved parts of Louisiana where hospitals already struggle to hire and retain physicians. He said he personally knew of three physicians who’ve left Louisiana rather than violate the terms of noncompetes.

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Separately from the legislation approved in Louisiana, the Federal Trade Commission voted several weeks ago to enact a total ban on noncompete agreements. According to the FTC, 30 million people — roughly one in five workers — are now subject to such restrictions.

The rule, which doesn’t apply to workers at non-profits, is to take effect in three months but is expected to face in legal challenges. The FTC rule also doesn’t apply to not-for-profit employers. Ochsner is a not-for-profit health system.



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Louisiana legislature approves bill that would punish the possession of abortion pills without a prescription with hefty fines and jail time

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Louisiana legislature approves bill that would punish the possession of abortion pills without a prescription with hefty fines and jail time


Two abortion-inducing drugs could soon be reclassified as controlled and dangerous substances in Louisiana under a first-of-its-kind bill that received final legislative passage Thursday and is expected to be signed into law by the governor.

Supporters of the reclassification of mifepristone and misoprostol, commonly known as “abortion pills,” say it would protect expectant mothers from coerced abortions, though they cited only one example of that happening, in the state of Texas. Numerous doctors, meanwhile, have said it will make it harder for them to prescribe the medicines, which they also use for other important reproductive health care needs.

Passage of the bill comes as both abortion rights advocates and abortion opponents await a final decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on an effort to restrict access to mifepristone. The justices did not appear ready to limit access to the drug on the day they heard arguments.

The GOP-dominated Legislature’s push to reclassify mifepristone and misoprostol could possibly open the door for other Republican states with abortion bans that are seeking tighter restrictions on the drugs. Louisiana currently has a near-total abortion ban in place, applying both to surgical and medical abortions.

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Current Louisiana law already requires a prescription for both drugs and makes it a crime to use them to induce an abortion, in most cases. The bill would make it harder to obtain the pills by placing them on the list of Schedule IV drugs under the state’s Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.

The classification would require doctors to have a specific license to prescribe the drugs, and the drugs would have to be stored in certain facilities that in some cases could end up being located far from rural clinics. Knowingly possessing the drugs without a valid prescription would carry a punishment including hefty fines and jail time. Language in the bill appears to carve out protections for pregnant women who obtain the drug without a prescription for their own consumption.

More than 200 doctors in the state signed a letter to lawmakers warning that the measure could produce a “barrier to physicians’ ease of prescribing appropriate treatment” and cause unnecessary fear and confusion among both patients and doctors. The physicians warn that any delay to obtaining the drugs could lead to worsening outcomes in a state that has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.

“This goes too far. We have not properly vetted this with the health care community and I believe it’s going to lead to further harm down the road,” said Democratic Sen. Royce Duplessis, who voted against the measure. “There’s a reason we rank at the bottom in terms of maternal health outcomes, and this is why.”

The reclassification of the two drugs is contained in an amendment to a bill originating in the Senate that would create the crime of “coerced criminal abortion by means of fraud.” Lawmakers in the Senate unanimously supported the original legislation a month ago. Later, bill sponsor Sen. Thomas Pressly pushed for the amendment to reclassify the drugs.

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Pressly said both the bill and the amendment were motivated by what happened to his sister Catherine Herring of Texas. In 2022, Herring’s husband slipped her seven misoprostol pills in an effort to induce an abortion without her knowledge or consent.

There have been several cases similar to Herring’s reported by news outlets over the past 15 years, though none of those cited were in Louisiana.

“The purpose of bringing this legislation is certainly not to prevent these drugs from being used for legitimate health care purposes,” Pressly said. “I am simply trying to put safeguards and guardrails in place to keep bad actors from getting these medications.”

The Senate voted 29-7, mainly along party lines, to pass the legislation. In the 39-person Senate there are only five women, all of whom voted in favor of the bill.

In addition to inducing abortions, mifepristone and misoprostol have other common uses, such as treating miscarriages, inducing labor and stopping hemorrhaging.

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Mifepristone was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000 after federal regulators deemed it safe and effective for ending early pregnancies. It’s used in combination with misoprostol, which the FDA has separately approved to treat stomach ulcers.

The drugs are not classified as controlled substances by the federal government because regulators do not view them as carrying a significant risk of misuse. The federal Controlled Substances Act restricts the use and distribution of prescription medications such as opioids, amphetamines, sleeping aids and other drugs that carry the risk of addiction and overdose.

Abortion opponents and conservative Republicans both inside and outside the state have applauded the Louisiana bill. Conversely, the move has been strongly criticized by Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who in a social media post described it as “absolutely unconscionable.”

The Louisiana legislation now heads to the desk of conservative Republican Gov. Jeff Landry. The governor, who was backed by former President Donald Trump during last year’s gubernatorial election, has indicated his support for the measure, remarking in a recent post on X, “You know you’re doing something right when @KamalaHarris criticizes you.”

Landry’s office did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

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A recent survey found that thousands of women in states with abortion bans or restrictions are receiving abortion pills in the mail from states that have laws protecting prescribers. The survey did not specify how many of those cases were in Louisiana.

Louisiana has a near-total abortion ban in place, which applies both to medical and surgical abortions. The only exceptions to the ban are if there is substantial risk of death or impairment to the mother if she continues the pregnancy or in the case of “medically futile” pregnancies, when the fetus has a fatal abnormality.

Currently, 14 states are enforcing bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with limited exceptions.

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Why was Southwest Louisiana not included in State of Emergency following severe storms?

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Why was Southwest Louisiana not included in State of Emergency following severe storms?


LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) – A state of emergency was issued earlier this week for several parishes across the state.

The emergency declaration covers the period of May 14-17 and allows the state to assist parishes with damage.

The parishes included are St. Martin, Iberville, West Baton Rouge, Pointe Coupee, and St. James parishes, but no Southwest Louisiana parishes.

A week ago, an EF-2 tornado traveled through Sulphur while an EF-1 struck Westlake then moved into Lake Charles – leaving a clear path of destruction behind.

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One Sulphur resident who had a tree fall on her trailer says she is frustrated but not surprised that Calcasieu Parish was not part of the declaration. She feels Southwest Louisiana is often left behind – and this time around is no exception.

The mayors of Lake Charles, Sulphur and Westlake each expressed state or federal help would be welcomed for repairs and debris cleanup.

Westlake Mayor Hal McMillin told us he is grateful no one in our area was hurt during the storms – but still emphasizes the damage that occurred was not minor.

“There were a number of trees, houses, our church. They all took damage. It was a big event for Westlake,” said McMillin.

McMillin says he even reached out to state representatives hoping to get answers.

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“Anytime you have a tornado like that that hits, you look for the state and federal people to come to your aid, and we’re hoping that we can get this declared as some type of disaster so we can have some relief. And the state and federal folks could come in and help the people that had damage as well as help the city be reimbursed for the things we did,” McMillin said.

So what goes into the decision to declare a state of emergency?

Emergency Preparedness Director Jared Maze says there is a monetary threshold a parish must meet to be included.

“We sent out this flyer so that people can actually assess their own damage to their house, which is disaster.la.gov, and they can send in pictures and then experts will be able to review those and determine if it meets a certain dollar factor for public assistance which is typically around a million dollars,” Maze said.

Maze explains that technically the decision to proceed with the declaration is still under review as only 15 people in our area submitted reports of their damage.

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Maze said he hopes that by spreading the word about the website – more people will report their damage – moving our parishes closer to the state of emergency declaration – especially ahead of hurricane season.

You can visit the website by clicking here or by scanning the QR code below.

Why was Southwest Louisiana not included in State of Emergency following severe storms?(GOHSEP)



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Louisiana Legislature approves bill classifying abortion pills as controlled dangerous substances

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Louisiana Legislature approves bill classifying abortion pills as controlled dangerous substances


BATON ROUGE, La. — Two abortion-inducing drugs could soon be reclassified as controlled and dangerous substances in Louisiana under a first-of-its-kind bill that received final legislative passage Thursday and is expected to be signed into law by the governor.

Supporters of the reclassification of mifepristone and misoprostol, commonly known as “abortion pills,” say it would protect expectant mothers from coerced abortions. Numerous doctors, meanwhile, have said it will make it harder for them to prescribe the medicines that they use for other important reproductive health care needs, and could delay treatment.

Passage of the bill comes as both abortion rights advocates and abortion opponents await a final decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on an effort to restrict access to mifepristone. The justices did not appear ready to limit access to the drug on the day they heard arguments.

The GOP-dominated Legislature’s push to reclassify mifepristone and misoprostol could possibly open the door for other Republican states with abortion bans that are seeking tighter restrictions on the drugs. Louisiana currently has a near-total abortion ban in place, applying both to surgical and medical abortions.

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Current Louisiana law already requires a prescription for both drugs and makes it a crime to use them to induce an abortion in most cases. The bill would make it harder to obtain the pills by placing it on the list of Schedule IV drugs under the state’s Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law.

The classification would require doctors to have a specific license to prescribe the drugs, which would be stored in certain facilities that in some cases could end up being located far from rural clinics. Knowingly possessing the drugs without a valid prescription would carry a punishment including hefty fines and jail time.

More than 200 doctors in the state signed a letter to lawmakers warning that it could produce a “barrier to physicians’ ease of prescribing appropriate treatment” and cause unnecessary fear and confusion among both patients and doctors. The physicians warn that any delay to obtaining the drugs could lead to worsening outcomes in a state that has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.

“This goes too far. We have not properly vetted this with the health care community and I believe it’s going to lead to further harm down the road,” said state Sen. Royce Duplessis, a Democrat who opposes the measure. “There’s a reason we rank at the bottom in terms of maternal health outcomes, and this is why.”

Supporters say people would be prevented from unlawfully using the pills, though language in the bill appears to carve out protections for pregnant woman who obtain the drug without a prescription for their own consumption.

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The reclassification of the two drugs in Louisiana is an amendment to a bill originating in the Senate that would create the crime of “coerced criminal abortion by means of fraud.” The sister of Republican state Sen. Thomas Pressly, who authored the bill, has shared her own story, of her husband slipping her abortion-inducing drugs without her knowledge or consent.

“The purpose of bringing this legislation is certainly not to prevent these drugs from being used for legitimate health care purposes,” Senator Pressley said. “I am simply trying to put safeguards and guardrails in place to keep bad actors from getting these medications.”

The Senate voted 29-7, mainly along party lines, to pass the legislation. In the 39-person Senate there are only five women, all of whom voted in favor of the bill.

In addition to inducing abortions, mifepristone and misoprostol have other common uses, such as treating miscarriages, inducing labor and stopping hemorrhaging.

Mifepristone was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000 after federal regulators deemed it safe and effective for ending early pregnancies. It’s used in combination with misoprostol, which the FDA has separately approved to treat stomach ulcers.

Advertisement

The drugs are not classified as controlled substances by the federal government because regulators do not view them as carrying a significant risk of misuse. The federal Controlled Substances Act restricts the use and distribution of prescription medications such as opioids, amphetamines, sleeping aids and other drugs that carry the risk of addiction and overdose.

Abortion opponents and conservative Republicans both inside and outside the state have applauded the Louisiana bill. Conversely, the move has been strongly criticized by Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, who in a social media post described it as “absolutely unconscionable.”

The Louisiana legislation now heads to the desk of conservative Republican Gov. Jeff Landry. The governor, who was backed by former President Donald Trump during last year’s gubernatorial election, has indicated his support for the measure, remarking in a recent post on X, “You know you’re doing something right when @KamalaHarris criticizes you.”

Landry’s office did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

A recent survey found that thousands of women in states with abortion bans or restrictions are receiving abortion pills in the mail from states that have laws protecting prescribers. The survey did not specify how many of those cases were in Louisiana.

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Louisiana has a near-total abortion ban in place, which applies both to medical and surgical abortions. The only exceptions to the ban are if there is substantial risk of death or impairment to the mother if she continues the pregnancy or in the case of “medically futile” pregnancies, when the fetus has a fatal abnormality.

Currently, 14 states are enforcing bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with limited exceptions.

Copyright © 2024 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.



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