LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Rally Calls for Medicaid Waiver Resolution
While county, state and federal officials inched closer to a deal over a federal Medicaid waiver, more than 150 health care providers and patients protested outside the Los Angeles County Hall of Administration yesterday, demanding a resolution to the situation, the Los Angeles Times reports. Set to expire at the end of this month, the current Medicaid waiver allows the county to be reimbursed for outpatient care provided by the county's clinics. Without the extension, county officials contend that will be forced to close a $250 million deficit by cutting health services for the region's three million uninsured residents. County officials already have frozen all new health department spending, including outpatient contracts with more than 100 private clinics.
A Deal on the Horizon?
Following a 12-hour negotiating session in Washington, D.C., Monday, Los Angeles County Director of Health Services Mark Finucane told county supervisors that "the county is getting close to getting some of the waiver." While some officials anticipate a deal sometime next week, Finucane cautioned, "There are a lot of details that would have to be worked out." Still, Supervisor Mike Antonovich said that federal and state officials "appear to be holding their breath waiting for the other to give and meanwhile the ship is sinking." However, state officials Monday offered to match the county's $60 million annual pledge to help bail out the nation's second-largest public health system. County officials were analyzing that deal to "see if it added up." Following a discussion Monday with Grantland Johnson, the state's top health official, Antonovich had "little hope that the state would contribute its fair share to the waiver" (Riccardi, 6/14).
Wall Street Undaunted
Despite the waiver troubles, Wall Street declared the county to be in good financial health. Analysts yesterday gave the county's "tax and revenue anticipation notes their highest rating for short-term debt." Some $600 million in notes will be sold later this week, giving the county enough cash to continue its $15 billion operation until property taxes arrive in December. The Los Angeles Times reports that Wall Street's reaction is much different now than during the county's 1995 health care crisis, when analysts were "so jittery... that the county had to self-insure its short-term notes" (6/14).