LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Supervisors Raise Funds for Public Health Initiatives
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors yesterday voted to "pump" $86 million into a "package of politically popular medical programs" over two years, despite the board's earlier profession of the need to cut the county's "troubled" Department of Health Services, the Los Angeles Times reports. The board voted to increase expenditures in tobacco prevention, outpatient care and child mental health counseling in schools by dipping into the county's $100 million annual share of the tobacco settlement. Supervisors argue that anti-smoking programs may ultimately reduce county health care costs by reducing smoking and tobacco-related disease treatment. The American Heart Association was among the groups that lobbied for the increased funding from settlement dollars. County heart association board member Ray Durazo said, "Every time we curtail anti-smoking activity in Los Angeles County, the smoking rates and the cost (of treating cigarette-related ailments) go up." Supervisor Gloria Molina cast the only dissenting vote against the expenditures, preferring the money instead be saved for "looming deficits" that will result in hospital cuts. In response to a projected $506 million health department deficit by 2005, supervisors have suggested layoffs and other cost cuts next year. But Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky contended that the tobacco lawsuit was not intended to "raise money to prop up the existing system." To address the health deparment's deficit problems, director Mark Finucane offered a "wide-ranging plan," proposing 2% staff cuts each year, using contractors for "key medical work," and closing clinics. Although supervisors "peppered [Finucane] with sometimes angry questions," they ultimately allowed him to enact his program. He will face the board again in December to answer more specific questions about implementation (Riccardi, Los Angeles Times, 11/1).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.