COUNTY-USC MEDICAL CENTER: Tackle Indigent Care, Not Magic Number
State legislators maneuvering to derail $6 million in federal health care funds unless Los Angeles County supervisors agree to rebuild County-USC Hospital to their size specifications are practicing "poor health care policy," says an editorial in today's Los Angeles Times. Rather than zeroing in on a number of beds, the piece says, it "would be best to focus on ... finding a way, or a variety of ways, to ensure that the people who need health care -- emergency, acute and preventive -- get it, in a way that is most convenient for the patients." Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, state Sen. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles), Assemblymen Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Los Angeles), who are leading the drive to increase the proposed number of beds in County-USC Hospital from 600 to 750, have "raised legitimate concerns" about health care for the area's indigent population. The Times argues, however, that while some of their "criticisms are on target, their solution is off. ... Simply put, giant public hospitals are the health care paradigm of the past." Instead of wrestling with county supervisors, the legislators "should wield" Medicare and Medi-Cal funding to compel private and not-for-profit hospitals to accept more indigent patients. The "hard truth," the editorial concludes, "is that there is nothing magical about 750 beds. ... The answer is not to tack on 150 more beds in one place but to take health care, particularly preventive care, closer to the people through community clinics that treat minor illnesses before they become emergencies" (6/21).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.