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Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

METAIRIE, La. - For better or worse, health care in the U.S. is evolving.

There is a major push toward consolidation, just as President Obama's Affordable Care Act prepares to expand coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured.

'Right now we're at a critical juncture in terms of our two hospitals West Jefferson Medical Center and East Jefferson Hospital,' said Jefferson Parish President John Young.

The boards of both public hospitals are now considering teaming up with private health care providers in the region.

Young says it may be a matter of survival.

'No one is advocating a sale, but a joint venture that may or may not include a lease in order to preserve the health of those two institutions, so they can continue top serve our citizens for years to come. You want to be able to continue to be competitive in the market place.'

WWL-TV heard from three health care providers.

Brian Landry a spokesman for Louisiana Children's Medical Center which already has a deal to manage the new public hospital in New Orleans said, 'LCMC has had and continues to have discussions with other hospitals that explore opportunities to collaborate.'

Ochsner Health System President and CEO Warner Thomas said, 'We will continue to evaluate opportunities to work with other high quality organizations across our region.'

Spokesman Rob Dyer for Health Corporation of America which operates the Tulane Hospitals said, 'I am not at liberty to discuss at this time.'

One critic says other options need to be explored before the public hospitals take on private partners.

'If the hospitals are consolidated, they would be able to reduce costs, lower their expenses, maybe that would help them provide long term viability,' said Walt Bennetti from ClickJefferson.com. 'Perhaps we need a property tax millage to keep them as public hospitals.'

A proposed new law now awaiting the governor's signature would allow Jefferson Parish to lease out its public hospitals without putting the matter to a vote of the people.

'My concerns are that the people have been taken out of the process,' said Bennetti.

'As far as I'm concerned you have to be able to walk in and continue to see EJ General Hospital, West Jefferson Medical Center and still be able to see your same doctors and physicians that you've come to know and trust,' said Young.

JP leaders hope to make some decision on how to proceed with the East and West Jefferson Hospitals by the end of the year.

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