Los Angeles County Health Reform Requires Immediate Action
Although Los Angeles County has received a second Medicaid waiver to bail out its troubled health care system, a Los Angeles Times editorial questions why supervisors have yet to devise a "coherent plan for savings or for moving [uninsured patients'] cases from costly hospitals to clinics." Adding to a "deepening sense of inaction and indecisiveness," the editorial notes that a report by the county's blue-ribbon health task force to restructure the health care system due last week was "put off at least three weeks." While the county received a $900 million Medicaid waiver in July, the editorial says that without "a major shift," the county's health care system will face deficits in the "hundreds of millions of dollars" after fiscal year 2002. In addition to Los Angeles County's growing population of uninsured residents, the editorial blames the county's health care problems on the "distrust and lack of communication" between the supervisors, county health department administrators, county staff members and the task force.
However, the editorial notes that the county supervisors have a few options that could "begin turning this debacle around." First, the editorial points out that the board could replace Los Angeles County Health Services Director Mark Finucane, who has been at odds with supervisors. Or, if the supervisors believe the situation "is too daunting and the time crunch too severe to start over," the editorial urges them to "quit the backbiting and offer Finucane guidance and support." For his part, Finucane "must prove he can provide clear, persuasive plans and carry them out," the editorial states, adding that the task force also "needs to examine the county's huge and complex health care delivery system as a whole." The editorial concludes, "Only with solid progress on all these fronts can the county avert a disaster just two fiscal years away" (Los Angeles Times, 1/14).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.