Health Care Costs a Big Issue in Los Angeles County Budget Plan
Los Angeles County officials on Monday proposed a $21.2 billion budget for next fiscal year that includes hundreds of millions of dollars to shore up the county health care system and begin funding future retiree health care benefits, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.
County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen proposed transferring $100 million from the county general fund and other areas to help the public hospital system's bottom line. The county health department in fiscal year 2008-2009 is expected to reach a $300 million budget deficit (Anderson, Los Angeles Daily News, 4/16).
According to some county estimates, the department's budget deficit over five years is expected to reach $794 million.
Janssen said that medical services could have to be reduced in the future if the county health department's budget does not improve (Leonard/Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 4/17).
The county this year spent $377 million to fund retiree benefits. Rather than set funding aside, the county operates on a pay-as-you-go method.
A grand jury two years ago estimated that the county would need $9 billion to fund retiree health care costs over the next few decades (Los Angeles Times, 4/17). Janssen said preliminary data by county officials estimates the liability at up to $14 billion, but officials next month will release official estimates (Los Angeles Daily News, 4/16).
To help pay for future retiree health care costs, Janssen proposed setting aside an additional $17 million from next year's regular budget (Los Angeles Times, 4/17). Janssen added that officials are working with employee unions to help address long-term costs (Los Angeles Daily News, 4/16).
Janssen on Tuesday is expected to present the budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors. Budget hearings begin May 9 (Los Angeles Times, 4/17).