Federal auditors want the state of Louisiana to pay back $13.6 million that may have been improperly paid to primary care physicians to bolster rural healthcare in the years after Hurricane Katrina.
The audit of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Bureau of Primary Care & Rural Health found widespread noncompliance with the terms of a $50 million Professional Workforce Supply Grant.
The grant offered one-time payments to physicians that could be used for practice-related expenses, including paying off student loans, offsetting malpractice premiums, and relocation expenses. The incentives were designed to entice them to practice medicine for at least three years in greater New Orleans area in the years after the catastrophic August 2005 hurricane.
The Office of Inspector General review, however, found that many physicians did not complete the terms of their three-year contracts, were working at ineligible sites, did not work full time, and in at least one instance, may not have even practiced medicine.
A sample review by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General of 100 practitioners who received grant money found that only 33 of the physicians were in compliance with the requirements of the federal grant.
The 67 who were not in compliance received more than $3.1 million.