ALAMEDA COUNTY: Coalition Calls For Removal Of Health Chief
"Health care and union activists have launched a campaign urging the firing of Alameda County health chief Dave Kears," the Contra Costa Times reports. The activists, united under the Vote Health Coalition banner, oppose Kears' move to restructure the county's charity care system. The Times reports that "Kears is in the process of developing a proposed indigent care plan using an HMO model, with income eligibility guidelines. The plan would limit who qualifies for county-funded health care and what services the indigent person would get under contracts with providers." Kears' opponents claim he is eliminating the only source of health care -- the county medical center -- for thousands of poor people who cannot afford insurance. In addition, they charge that Kears is "diverting state and federal Medi-Cal funds to private health care corporations, undermining the county medical center's mission of serving the uninsured working poor."
Time To Go
The Vote Health Coalition is "distributing postcards to be sent to county supervisors urging Kears' replacement by a director 'committed to restoring full-service public health care.'" They charge that Kears has been "nonresponsive to Board of Supervisors' policies and public input to keep the hospital competitive." Coalition Chair Dan Cloak said, "The policy was to try to create a first-class, competitive hospital system to serve everyone in Alameda County who needs it." He predicted that under the new system, "The medical center will be left with the choice of turning nonreimbursable people away at the door, or going broke."
Blown Out Of Proportion?
County Supervisor Wilma Chan said that Kears' reforms are merely attempts to control costs and adapt the system to the changing dynamics of the health care marketplace. She said, "The main feature is an attempt to cut usage by our most expensive clients, and I think that makes a lot of sense." She stressed that people were not going to be summarily denied care. To buttress her case, she "cited reports that 1.5% of the 30,500 indigent patients who used the medical center last year were responsible for 33% of indigent care's $51.7 million cost" (Brewer, 2/24).