Legislature Approves Bill To Restore County Health Care Funds Lost Through ‘Poison Pill’ Measure
The Senate and Assembly on Monday voted 34-1 and 66-0, respectively, to approve a bill (AB 1457) that would restore as much as $160 million in health care funding for counties jeopardized by a "poison pill" measure included in a state law regarding vehicle license fees, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports (Gardner, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/4). In 1982, the state transferred responsibility for indigent care to counties and provided them with additional sources of funding. In 1991, the vehicle license fee was increased to provide more funding to counties for health care programs (California Healthline, 4/14). However, the 1991 measure included a provision stating that if any county successfully challenged the state in court or filed any appeals, the funding would be revoked for all counties (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/4). San Diego County in 1990 sued the state to recover indigent care costs. In September 2003, the state appellate court awarded the county $3.4 million, and the state Supreme Court upheld the ruling. Consequently, the poison pill measure was activated March 1, and counties statewide faced losing tens of millions of dollars in funding for health, mental health and social service programs (California Healthline, 4/14). More than $90 million in state payments have been frozen since the poison pill measure took effect. Because the 58 counties are required by law to provide certain services, they could not respond by eliminating programs. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is expected to sign the bill this week.
The legislation approved Monday would restore funding only for the remainder of this fiscal year; a new measure will be necessary to maintain the funding to counties for FY 2004-2005, which begins July 1. The Schwarzenegger administration has said a permanent local government funding solution will be included in the governor's May budget revisions, which are scheduled for release next week (San Diego Union-Tribune, 5/4).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.