NEW ORLEANS -- Starting Feb. 1 Louisiana will stop offering hospice care services to most patients on medicaid.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is eliminating the service to families in the state due to state budget cuts.
Critics are up in arms.
"When you have a loved one that its ill and they're going to die and you know it and they know it and they want to be home, you want to satisfy exactly what they want," said Docia Kenney.
Kenney knows hospice care well. Wednesday marked the one-month anniversary of her brother David's passing. The 53-year-old lost his battle with pancreatic cancer and received hospice care until the very end.
"The day my brother's obituary was in the newspaper. It was on the metro section, that's the first thing I saw and when I saw it was Feb. 1 and that medicaid patients were going to lose this, I was furious," said Kenney of the medicaid cuts.
The Slidell resident has become an outspoken critic of the state's plan to cut hospice care to medicaid patients 21 years and older.
Vicki Burns, who runs Lakeside Hospice in Metairie, feels the same way.
"I think as a state we're just setting really a bad example to the rest of the country. This is how we're going to treat the people in their final days of their lives?" said Burns.
The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals say the elimination of hospice care for medicaid patients will mean nearly $3.3 million in savings this year alone. In 2014, it'll mean $8.3 million in savings.
However, Burns believes the state will end up paying much more with terminally ill patients forced to turn to local hospitals.
"They'll just go in and out of the hospitals, maybe go to icus, and they wont' be able to have their family around them with hospice care," said Burns.
As the Feb. 1 deadline nears, Kenney, who has seen three loved ones through hospice care, hopes that the state can find a way to give all Louisiana families the end of life care she believes they deserve.
"I don't think a lot of people know what hospice does until you're actually faced with having to have hospice in your life," said Kenney.
DHH says there were 5,819 recipients of hospice services through Louisiana medicaid in the previous fiscal year.
Next Wednesday, Jan. 23, opponents of the state's hospice care cuts have scheduled a candlelight vigil on the steps of the state capitol in Baton Rouge from 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.