Emergency Health Care System Faces ‘Setbacks’
A number of recent "setbacks" to California's "ailing" emergency health care system could close trauma centers and increase the number of uninsured, the Sacramento Bee reports. The setbacks include:
- Gov. Gray Davis (D) has proposed cutting $30 million from this year's budget for the state's 43 trauma centers. The money was approved in this year's original budget, but Davis removed the funding after "an economic downturn prompted [him] to look for cuts."
- The Bush administration last week told California that it will have to pay "a bigger share of Medicaid and other health programs for the poor" beginning in the middle of next year (see story 1).
- The federal government last week announced that it will close the Medicaid loophole, the proceeds from which California officials say they use to "prop up the health care system." They say the move will eventually cut $300 million annually from hospitals that serve the state's low-income population.
According to the California Medical Association, 82% of the state's emergency rooms reported losing money last year, while hospitals provided $2.96 billion in uncompensated care -- a 61% increase over 1998. CMA spokesperson Jan Emerson said, "Hospitals are near a financial meltdown," adding that the "cumulative effect of the recent financial setbacks ... may leave some hospitals with no other options but to close their trauma centers" (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 11/26).
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