Counties Could Lose Millions in Monthly Funding for Health Care Programs Because of ‘Poison Pill’ Measure
Following a decision in a 13-year-old lawsuit filed against the state by San Diego County, counties statewide could begin losing tens of millions of dollars in funding for health, mental health and social service programs because of a "poison pill" measure included in a state law regarding vehicle license fees, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. In 1982, the state transferred responsibility for indigent care to counties and provided them with additional sources of funding. However, the law contained a measure stating that if any county challenged the state in court or filed any appeals, the funding would be revoked. In 1991, the vehicle license fee was increased to provide more funding to counties for health care programs. However, San Diego County in 1990 sued the state to recover costs for indigent care. In September 2003, the state appellate court awarded the county $3.4 million, and the state Supreme Court upheld the ruling. Consequently, the "poison pill" measure was activated March 1. Los Angeles County expects to lose more than $30 million a month, most of which will comprise funds allocated to a state-mandated program that provides in-home care to the elderly and people with disabilities. As a result, Los Angeles County might be forced to make cuts in discretionary programs, such as public safety. "San Diego County won, and we all lost," Ventura County Executive Officer Johnny Johnston said, adding that the county's lost revenue -- about $8 million in funds this year and $18 million next year -- had been earmarked for the Ventura County Medical Center as well as public health and mental health programs. Department of Finance spokesperson H.D. Palmer said the Schwarzenegger administration supports legislation to return funding to the counties, but it also wants "to see if we can get to a shorter-term fix that would allow those monies that are currently being collected and held by [the Department of Motor Vehicles] to (be distributed)" (Anderson/Sheppard, Los Angeles Daily News, 4/13).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.