Federal Appeals Court Hears Case on Los Angeles County Hospital Cuts, Closure of Rehabilitation Center
Los Angeles County on Monday presented its case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena appealing a decision to block the county from closing Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and from eliminating 100 beds at County-USC Medical Center, the Los Angeles Times reports (Fox, Los Angeles Times, 12/2). U.S. District Court Judge Florence-Marie Cooper in May issued an injunction to block the county's plans. The county health care system, which treats about 600,000 uninsured patients per year, faces a deficit of $265.1 million by fiscal year 2006-2007 (California Healthline, 5/29). The proposed cuts would produce a projected $75 million in savings during the first year, county officials say. In the courtroom Monday, county attorney Timothy Coates said the judge erred by requiring Los Angeles County to show that Medi-Cal beneficiaries could find comparable care at another hospital before closing Rancho because the state, not the county, administers Medi-Cal. However, Jeffrey Davidson, an attorney representing patients, said the county is unlike other health care providers because it receives federal funding "far and above" other Medi-Cal providers and has accepted $1 billion under a federal waiver requiring it to provide "all necessary and appropriate medical services" to Medi-Cal beneficiaries . Attorney Yolanda Vera of Neighborhood Legal Services said that the county "exaggerates the extent of its budget problems" and noted that the county health department ended the fiscal year with a surplus that was $100 million greater than expected. The three-judge panel may take months to issue a ruling on the case, but "comments from the judges hinted at their sympathies for the patients," according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 12/2).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.