LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Health Care System Faces More Financial Troubles
Despite a $1 billion federal bailout in 1995, the Los Angeles County health care system faces financial troubles again this year, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports. The Medicaid rules waiver, which saved the nation's second-largest public health system from a $655 million budget shortfall in 1995, expires June 30. While the county hopes to renew the waiver, talks remain at a standstill. As a result of the budget crunch, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors -- following its decision to stop payments to 137 private health clinics if the waiver expires -- is scheduled to considered a new hiring freeze for the Department of Health Services today. "We have met certain goals, but it's an entrenched old system that won't turn around on a dime. I don't think we have done enough," Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky conceded. According to the 1995 agreement, the county promised to revamp its health system, concentrating on outpatient clinics instead of costly hospitalization. To date, however, despite 2,500 layoffs and dozens of privatized clinics, outpatient visits have fallen 900,000 short of the proposed four million goal. The county also remains $100 million below its goal of shaving $294 million from the health budget. Last week, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Donna Shalala, arguing that the Medicaid waiver is critical to "avoid service reductions and layoffs." The Los Angeles County health system currently treats about three million uninsured patients each year (5/30).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.