L.A. County Braces for Health Cuts as Funding Aid Remains in Limbo
On Tuesday, Los Angeles County health officials said the county might need to begin laying off staff and reducing the number of patients it serves because of uncertainty about an extension of state and federal health care funds, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Federal, State Funds in Limbo
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services faces a deficit of $389 million to $429 million for the current fiscal year, in addition to a $200 million deficit left over from the previous fiscal year (Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times, 7/28).
William Fujioka, Los Angeles County CEO, added that the state still owes the county $172 million in health care reimbursement dollars from the 2005-2006 fiscal year (NBC Los Angeles, 7/27).
To help address its deficit, the county had anticipated receiving financial assistance from:
- A federal Medicaid waiver worth about $150 million, which is scheduled to expire next month;
- The federal share of Medicaid funds; and
- A hospital provider fee imposed by the state on private hospitals and matched by federal Medicaid funds.
However, officials are uncertain how much of the financial assistanceÂ the countyÂ will receive because:
- State officials and CMS still are negotiating the Medicaid waiver;
- Congress has yet to decide whether to scale back the federal Medicaid share or continue at current funding levels; and
- State lawmakers still need to pass legislation to enact the hospital provider fee.
Possible Effects of Funding Losses
If the federal and state funds do not come through, Los Angeles County could lose out on about $299 million this fiscal year and about $144 million in payments remaining from the previous fiscal year.
As a result, the county health department might be forced to scale back inpatient hospital services and emergency department visits by more than 25% each, meaning that the county could serve 260,000 to 420,000 fewer patients annually. The department currently serves about 730,000 patients per year.
Addressing the Funding Concerns
Fujioka urged Los Angeles County supervisors to demand that state and federal lawmakers approve the financial assistance.
County supervisors instructed Fujioka and John Schunhoff, interim director of the county health department, toÂ provide inÂ 15 days a detailed report on how the department plans to close its deficit if the funds do not come through (Los Angeles Times, 7/28).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.