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Jindal eyes end to state hospice care

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) recently unveiled an ambitious new approach to tax policy, in which his state would eliminate income and corporate taxes altogether, and replace the revenue through increased sales taxes. If you thought his plan couldn't get more offensive, think again.

To shift the tax burden from income to purchases would, of course, be radically regressive, rewarding the rich and punishing the poor. The Tax Policy Center and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy both scrutinized Jindal's proposal, and concluded it would be a breathtaking experiment in redistribution of wealth -- in the wrong direction.

But to keep the sales tax from being too high, Jindal also hopes to impose steep spending cuts so the state would need less revenue. What kind of cuts does the far-right governor have in mind? Jamelle Bouie reported yesterday that Jindal intends to eliminate the state's hospice program for Medicaid recipients.

According to a local New Orleans news station, Louisiana residents over the age of 21 will stop receiving hospice benefits at the end of the month. As of February, low-income Louisianans with terminal illnesses and disabilities will lose access to long-term home and medical care.

Wait, it gets worse.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals defends this as a cost-saving measure: Over the next two years, Louisiana will save $8.3 million by ending state-funded hospice care. But that's a paltry sum compared to the state's $900 million deficit. And in the same way that raising Medicare eligibility increases costs by moving seniors into more expensive private insurance plans, these cuts will, in the end, place a greater burden on the state, as low-income Louisianans turn to nearby hospitals and ICUs, shifting the burden to localities.

In isolation, it's a disaster of a plan. When coupled with existing cuts to education and a large tax increase on the bottom 80 percent of Louisiana residents, it's a catastrophe.

Local hospice officials in Louisiana expressed dismay at the "throw grandma off the bus" attitude of the Jindal administration.

After the 2012 elections, Jindal tried to position himself as someone who could help lead his party in a smarter direction, lamenting "dumbed-down conservatism." He neglected to mention he hopes to replace it with "callous and cruel conservatism."