COMPLEX CARE: State Neglects Children’s Treatment Program
California's "sickest, most vulnerable" children are having an "increasingly difficult" time getting the complex medical care they need, according to a new report by the state Senate Office of Research. Children's Hospital of Los Angeles pediatric plastic surgeon John Reinisch blames the "crisis" on the state's "years of fiscal neglect" of the California Children's Services (CSS) program, which pays for complex care for children with life-threatening or debilitating conditions. Once "one of the nation's model programs," CSS attracted top pediatric specialists and provided "timely, state-of-the-art care," but for years now, the program has been "severely underfunded," driving away participating physicians and making it even harder to recruit qualified pediatricians to California, Reinisch writes. He notes that reimbursement rates have remained virtually the same since 1982 and are so low they are "destroying the future of children's health care in California." Although the state Legislature passed a budget to increase CSS funding by $23 million, Gov. Gray Davis (D), who "either does not understand the crisis or is unwilling to take decisive action," revised that amount to only $4 million, Reinisch writes. He concludes, "It's painful to watch California's once-stellar CSS program collapse ... Our children deserve the best and most timely care" (Los Angeles Times, 6/23).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.