Health Agency Cuts Displace Patients
Emergency departments and other safety-net health centers in Stanislaus County have experienced an influx of patients since services were reduced at county-run clinics, the Modesto Bee reports.
The county Board of Supervisors in October 2005 approved cuts in the Health Services Agency to address a projected $8.7 million budget deficit this year. In November, the county banned undocumented immigrants from its indigent care program and increased copayments for uninsured patients from $40 to $100 for urgent care and $45 to $90 per urgent visit.
The county is planning to close additional clinics and shift services to the remaining centers.
The county has said it will maintain a patient volume of at least 207,000 visits annually, which could cut services for more than 17,000 patients. For the current budget year, HSA officials said they expect to record about 245,000 clinic visits, compared with 260,000 in the previous fiscal year.
In addition, many private medical groups have stopped treating Medi-Cal patients, and fewer people receive health insurance through their employers, further contributing to problems.
Mary Ann Lee, interim director for HSA, said county staff will ask supervisors to approve an application for federally qualified health center status for its clinics. If approved, the designation could result in an additional $2.5 million to $3.5 million in federal funding annually for treating Medi-Cal and Medicare beneficiaries.
Officials plan to submit the application in July, and the federal government could make a decision by the end of the year (Carlson, Modesto Bee, 5/8).