Los Angeles County Faces ‘Extreme’ Health Care Troubles
Los Angeles County is "struggling on a ... basic level to keep its health care system from melting down," the Los Angeles Times reports. Problems in the county include community hospitals "fighting" for survival; failing physician groups; a "critically" low supply of registered nurses; labor conflicts; and a delay in flu vaccines that may "flood already brimming emergency rooms with [flu] patients." Noting that the county's 13-hospital trauma network was "just pulled back from the brink of collapse," and that the county Department of Health Services is "solvent only because of two massive federal bailouts since 1995," the Times reports that the financial pressures on the county medical system are "more fierce than almost anywhere else in the nation." Pressures are compounded by the region's "sheer size," "vast income gaps," and a large immigrant population that experiences cultural and language barriers to care. Los Angeles County Medical Association board member Dr. Brian Johnston calls the county "the Chernobyl of health care," while Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family Foundation agrees that the county "represents the extremes of the problems that other places are facing." Levitt notes that the county's "staggering" 32% uninsured rate, or 2.7 million people, may "signal where the rest of the country is headed" (Marquis, Los Angeles Times, 11/25).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.