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Highlights

Among the challenges facing New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is the significant destruction and disruption of health care services. Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall near the Louisiana-Mississippi border on the morning of August 29, 2005, and the subsequent flooding caused by the failure of the New Orleans levee system resulted in one of the largest natural disasters to hit the U.S. Among other things, the hurricane resulted in the sudden closure of hospitals and loss of other health care providers, including one of the largest hospitals in the area, Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans (MCLNO), which suffered extensive damage and remains closed. MCLNO, consisting of Charity and University Hospitals, is part of the statewide Louisiana State University (LSU) system and served as the primary safety net hospital for many local residents. About half of its patients were uninsured, and about one-third were covered by Medicaid. Furthermore, MCLNO also served as a major teaching hospital and the only Level I trauma center in the area. The availability of health care services is one of the factors that can affect whether and how quickly residents return to the area. To conduct our review, we obtained information on (1) estimates of the availability of health care services; (2) efforts by state and local officials to plan for the rebuilding of the health care system; and (3) assessments of the damage to the MCLNO facilities, cost estimates for repair or replacement, and the costs that are eligible for federal funding.

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