California Healthline Highlights Recent County Action
Orange County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to reduce funding for county retirees' medical benefits to address an estimated $1.4 billion in unfunded medical liability, the Los Angeles Times reports. The cuts are intended to reduce the unfunded retiree health care liability by $815 million and reduce county costs by as much as $90 million per year (Berthelsen, Los Angeles Times, 9/13).
According to the plan, the county will save:
- $274 million by creating a medical trust to manage and invest county employee contributions;
- $211 million by capping cost-of-living increases to 3% annually;
- $200 million by moving retirees into a health insurance pool that is separate from active employees; and
- $85 million by reducing medical grant payments by half once a retiree is eligible for Medicare, among other measures.
Sacramento County's latest offer to some striking county workers includes pay increases of as much as 38% in some cases, but union officials said the proposal does not address county proposals to increase workers' health care cost sharing, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The county's most recent proposal would increase salaries by at least 21% over five years for members of the Stationary Engineers Local 39, which represents about 1,500 garbage, water quality, parks and animal control workers.
However, Bill Kelly, business agent for Local 39, said the proposal is "not addressing the core problem, the medical."
Currently, Local 39 workers receive 100% coverage health benefits. The county has proposed increasing over five years union members' contributions to 20% (Kollars, Sacramento Bee, 9/13).
County pharmacy workers also remain on strike, causing a backlog of refill prescriptions and wait times of up to three or four hours at local pharmacies.
County pharmacists say they are filling about 1,200 prescriptions daily -- their highest rate ever -- but no additional staff have been hired. Pharmacists maintain that some pharmacists are leaving their jobs with the county because pay is inadequate compared to other counties. In addition, they say some pharmacists are working part-time to retain county benefits while also working at retail pharmacies or as on-call pharmacists to earn more money (Milbourn, Sacramento Bee, 9/13).
Capital Public Radio's "KXJZ News" on Thursday reported on some union officials' agreement to continue negotiations on health insurance costs. The segment includes comments from Kelly and Megan MacPherson, spokesperson for the county (Milne, "KXJZ News," CPR, 9/14).
The complete transcript of the segment is available online. The complete segment is available online in Windows Media.
In addition, KQED's "The California Report" on Wednesday reported on the strike (Keith, "The California Report," KQED, 9/13). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
Stanislaus County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a $900 million fiscal year 2006-2007 county budget that includes funds for county behavioral health and recovery services and avian flu preparedness, the Modesto Bee reports. The county expects a $14.88 million increase in discretionary revenue, fueled by an $11 million increase in tax revenue.
The county will transfer money to behavioral health and recovery services and will continue discussing the future of the Stanislaus Behavioral Health Center, which currently is not compliant with federal regulations. The county is in talks with Doctors Medical Center about outsourcing inpatient psychiatric care at the behavioral health center to Doctors. Alternatively, the center could be converted to a state-licensed psychiatric care facility.
Denise Hunt, behavioral health and recovery services director, said the department has learned it will not lose $450,000 related to a Medi-Cal audit. Medi-Cal is the state's Medicaid program (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 9/13).