Los Angeles County May Receive State, Federal Help With Health Department Budget Shortfall
More than a week after CMS Administrator Tom Scully ruled out a "significant" federal bailout for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, county officials yesterday "received encouragement" from state and federal officials that the county could receive some aid, the Los Angeles Times reports (Ornstein/Riccardi, Los Angeles Times, 10/10). The county's health system faces a potential $750 million budget deficit by 2005, and county officials have set an Oct. 29 deadline to decide whether to close dozens of public clinics, as well as Harbor-UCLA and Olive View-UCLA medical centers, to balance the budget. The county received a $1.2 billion federal bailout in 1995 and an extension of the funds in 2000. The bailout funds are set to expire in 2005 (California Healthline, 10/2). During a meeting with federal health officials yesterday, county officials presented a multiyear, $1.4 billion bailout proposal to shrink the health department's deficit, partly amassed as a result of providing free medical care to 600,000 uninsured patients each year. While federal officials were "noncommittal" about giving the county more funds, they encouraged county supervisors to delay the Oct. 29 vote on whether to close the clinics and medical centers. However, county health officials said delaying the vote is not possible because the "lengthy process" of closing the hospitals must begin immediately to save money from the closures, particularly if the county does not receive federal aid. The Times reports that county officials had hoped the meeting would help them gauge whether supervisors should move forward with another round of "far more dire cuts."
Meanwhile, Gov. Gray Davis (D) yesterday met with Los Angeles County supervisors Gloria Molina and Zev Yaroslavsky to discuss the county health system's budget woes. The Times reports that after the meeting, Davis said he would be "open to calling a special legislative session in January" to address the county's budget problems. Steve Maviglio, a Davis spokesperson, clarified that the governor is open to a special session "if he sees a need for it," adding, "If there's a way to avoid it, I think he will" (Los Angeles Times, 10/10).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.