Los Angeles County Officials Approve 25% Reduction in Subsidies for Private Health Clinics
Los Angeles County officials yesterday approved a 25% or $12.5 million reduction in funds for the county's "public-private partnership" program -- which provides subsidies to private health clinics -- in a "further fraying of a 'safety-net' health system that is supposed to serve the poor and uninsured," the Los Angeles Times reports. The reductions, "effectively made in June" and finalized this week by the county Board of Supervisors, come after the county approved closures of several public health clinics (Cardenas/Briscoe, Los Angeles Times, 9/25). As part of a plan to help reduce a Los Angeles County health system budget deficit expected to reach $710 million in three years, supervisors last month voted to close 11 of the county's 18 public health clinics and four school-based health centers, as well as end inpatient services at High Desert Hospital in Lancaster. The plan also will reduce funds for childhood immunizations, tests for sexually transmitted diseases and examinations for communicable diseases. In addition, the county will lay off 4,230 health care workers by 2006 (California Healthline, 8/22).
The reductions in funds for private health clinics appear to "undermine the health care model adopted in 1996" by the county that "relied heavily on public-private partnerships" to provide care for low-income and uninsured residents, the Times reports. The county has eliminated more than 150 private health clinics from the program, and of the 98 clinics that will continue to receive funds, half will receive less from the county than they did last year. County officials took into account federal accreditation, diversified sources of funds, offered services and location to determine which clinics to continue to fund. Some of the clinics that will not receive county funds this year plan to apply for grants and may charge low-income patients for care, the Times reports. The clinics that will remain open next year may reduce their hours of operation, treat fewer new patients and eliminate staff members. Linda Dacon, executive director of Clinica Para Las Americas in Los Angeles, said, "We expected to get cut but not eliminated. How do I pick and choose who gets an appointment? That's what wakes me up at three in the morning" (Los Angeles Times, 9/25).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.