Four Counties Act on Health Care-Related Issues
The Boards of Supervisors for Riverside, San Diego, San Mateo and Stanislaus counties on Tuesday acted on health care-related issues. Summaries appear below.
The Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday called on the county Human Resources Department to develop a plan that could allow union workers to receive the same health care benefits as top management, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports.
Under a contract that expires Dec. 31, the county contributes $512 per member monthly toward health care benefits for members of the Service Employee International Union Local 1997. The county has proposed contributing an additional $56 monthly toward benefits as part of a three-and-a-half year contract.
The increase would cost the county about $7 million over the life of the contract, according to county human resources Director Ron Komers.
Some union members said the increase is insufficient to offset increases to the costs of health insurance plans. Health coverage for a family can range from $750 monthly to $1,016 monthly.
Rebecca Miller, executive director of Local 1997, said negotiators are asking the county to phase in changes to health benefits that would make the system equitable for all employees (Trone, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 12/6).
KPBS' "KPBS News" on Wednesday reported on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors' approval of a new eligibility limit for uninsured, low-income county residents to qualify for the County Medical Services program (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 12/7).
Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a new income limit of $1,078 per month for a single adult. The previous limit was $802 per month. The new limit will allow an additional 1,800 residents to qualify for County Medical Services.
A Superior Court Judge last month ruled that San Diego County's income limits for last-resort medical care at no cost under the County Medical Services program violate state law. Under the ruling, the county had to submit new standards within 60 days that "base eligibility for indigent health care on the individual's ability to pay for such care" (California Healthline, 12/7).
The KPBS segment includes comments from Katie Murphy -- an attorney for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, which filed the lawsuit ("KPBS News," KPBS, 12/7).
The complete transcript is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a new program to train four paramedics to assist individuals having behavioral emergencies caused by illicit drugs, alcohol, mental illness or other factors, the Bay City News/San Jose Mercury News reports. Members of the San Mateo County Mental Health Assessment and Referral Team, or SMART, will respond to "code two" incidents involving individuals with non-violent behavioral problems.
The paramedics will conduct mental assessments and decide the best course of action, including arrest, placing individuals in a psychiatric facility for observation or taking them to a sobriety station. Paramedics also have access to a county staff technician who can advise them in decision making.
The program will cost $1,134,000 through Dec. 31, 2008, with $324,000 earmarked for fiscal year 2005-2006 (Bay City News/San Jose Mercury News, 12/7).
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the relocation of county Health Services Agency clinics and a 20% reduction of patient volumes to reduce the agency's deficits, the Modesto Bee reports. Under the plan, Paradise Medical Office and the McHenry Medical Office will be remodeled to house medical services relocated from other facilities over the next seven months.
Nonmedical services will be moved from the Paradise center. In addition, the county will discontinue services for 19,000 county residents and eliminate 47 full-time staff positions over two years.
The county also is seeking federal qualified health center status for clinics and increased reimbursement rates from the state to avoid further budget cuts. Although the plan is expected to stabilize the agency's budget for the remainder of this year, county HSA still faces a $2 million shortfall in fiscal year 2007-2008 (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 12/7).