Community Health Foundation Could Lose Contract with Los Angeles County
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote today to rescind $3.4 million in county contracts with Community Health Foundation of East Los Angeles, one of the largest private health groups treating the county's uninsured, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Department of Health Services recommended that supervisors revoke the contract after an undercover investigation "confirmed" that the clinics were turning away uninsured patients who could not pay for services or "improperly" charging them for services, the Times reports. Undercover officers posing as patients said they were told that they would have to pay between $15 and $400 for services at three of four clinics under contract with the county. DHS spokesperson John Wallace said, "Part of the contractual agreement is that (the clinics) will not turn away or bar our patients from receiving services nor charge them for care. It's a violation, and we're recommending that their contract be terminated. That's pretty rare."
Community Health Foundation of East Los Angeles was one of the first private clinic systems to agree to be part of the county's outpatient care system for the uninsured. In 1995, the county began signing outpatient contracts with private clinics after receiving a Medicaid waiver that allowed use of federal money for outpatient care rather than solely for inpatient hospital care. The clinics provide basic care for the uninsured, charging the county $82 per visit. Using private clinics was part of the county's move to "ease the burden of indigent care on the financially troubled public health system," the Times reports. Community Health Foundation Executive Director Rudy Diaz called the undercover investigation "flimsy" and "denied" that the clinics "improperly" charged the uninsured or refused them care. He said, "We would be rich right now if we collected money from those patients or even a small number of those patients." He added that the clinic system would continue to operate the "majority" of its facilities.
Although no patients will be denied services if the contract is rescinded, some will have to seek care in other medical facilities, resulting in "new burdens in receiving treatment," the Times reports. Patients in the clinic system will go to other nearby clinics and the County-USC Medical Center, and the health department will take over two clinics that Community Health had been operating in county buildings (Larrubia, Los Angeles Times, 4/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.