CONTRA COSTA: County Health Dept. Faces $10 Million Loss
The Contra Costa county health services department stands to lose $10 million, according to a county report sent to county supervisors yesterday. The Contra Costa Times reports that the loss is largely due to a shortfall in the money that the state and federal governments give the county to serve the uninsured and indigent. Dr. William Walker, chief of the county's health services, stated that "much of the shortfall is due to diminishing support for the county's legally required obligation to treat poor people." He added that financial belt-tightening is "hitting hospitals statewide." Since the federal government and the state of California have pushed harder for welfare-to-work programs, poor people have lost their Medi-Cal coverage as they move to minimum-wage jobs with no benefits. Ten thousand more Californians could lose their Medi-Cal coverage in the next two years -- burdening the county with an additional $11.5 million in health care costs. The county balanced its budget this year by freezing new hires and cutting non-direct health care operations. But the changes may not be enough: federal support for hospitals' care of the poor has been cut, dropping Contra Costa's share this year from $13.4 million to $11.4 million. The state's contribution will drop from $1.5 million to $1 million. Another loss of revenue for the county is bittersweet -- tobacco tax income is down because of a drop in smoking. Over a 10-year period, tobacco money has shrunk from $2.4 million to $1.4 million. (Spears, 11/16).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.