Hospitals Use County Reserves, Wait for Federal Funds
Some California counties are using budget reserves and funding for other programs to maintain operations at public hospitals as federal officials work to finalize a new reimbursement system, the Sacramento Bee reports. Hospital officials say $650 million in federal funding has been withheld this fiscal year from public hospitals treating low-income and uninsured patients.
Last year, the Bush administration and the state reached an agreement to require hospitals to submit receipts showing they provided care to low-income and uninsured patients before receiving federal funds. However, state and federal officials are still working on the details of the agreement, and federal policy states that funds cannot be dispersed until the agreement is finalized.
Lawmakers on Tuesday will hold a joint hearing to discuss advancing state funds to counties to cover some of the shortfalls.
According to the Bee, counties are losing interest payments on money being used to fund public hospitals, and some are concerned that their credit ratings will be affected if they use reserve funds.
Jeff Flick, regional administrator for CMS, said he believed the details would be settled soon, the Bee reports (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 2/11).
"Nothing" is forcing lawmakers "to confront the choices that are necessary if California is to provide health care for millions who have no doctor or to bring costs under control" for the uninsured, according to a Bee editorial. The editorial states that "[a]ny real solution" to providing benefits for the state's 6.6 million uninsured residents "would group them into a large program that lowers the per-person costs by the sheer size of the pool." In such a system, "progress would likely come in increments rather than in a revolution that throws out the entire system and replaces it with something new," the editorial states (Sacramento Bee, 2/12).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.