Hospitals, Doctors Lobby for Part of Ventura County’s Tobacco Settlement
Hospitals, doctors and health care advocates on Monday lobbied for a share of Ventura County's tobacco settlement money, asking officials to allocate the money quickly, the Ventura County Star reports. To date, the county has received $23.3 million from the 1998 settlement; the county expects to receive about $261 million over the next 25 years. Jim Lott, regional vice president of the Healthcare Association of Southern California, said, "What's really a crime is the money is there, accruing interest, and not one penny has been spent on tremendous need. We need to get the money into the hands of people already incurring the tremendous costs of keeping the community safe and well." Last November, the county Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance requiring that the tobacco settlement funds be spent only on health care. In addition, the board endorsed a plan that would set aside $11.25 million over the next five years for private hospitals and physicians who enter a partnership agreement with the county to provide care for the uninsured.
Lott told the county-appointed tobacco settlement financial committee that the county's private hospitals were "bleeding from financial wounds" caused by state-mandated seismic retrofitting regulations and reduced federal reimbursements. However, he said that providing care for the uninsured -- who represent nearly 22% of Ventura County's 753,197 residents -- was the "biggest drain" on hospital budgets. The financial committee will continue taking proposals for the tobacco settlement funds before making final recommendations to supervisors in a few months (Koehler, Ventura County Star, 5/22).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.