Los Angeles Health Care Woes Compounded by Budget Cuts
Since 2000, 15 general acute care hospitals in Los Angeles have closed while the number of uninsured patients and Medi-Cal beneficiaries in South Los Angeles has increased by more than 38%, making the city one of the most difficult places in the U.S. to find health care, the New York Times reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
One of the main factors driving the city's difficulties is Medi-Cal's reimbursement rates, the lowest in the nation. Further complicating the situation, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has approved a 10% cut for Medi-Cal payments to health care providers.
State cuts to Medi-Cal in conjunction with proposals in Congress to reduce federal Medicaid spending could result in a $240 million loss for Los Angeles, according to the Times.
Physician recruiters say such circumstances make it increasingly difficult to draw doctors to practice in the area.
Nearly 33% of the visits to Los Angeles-area emergency departments are made by individuals without health insurance.
In hopes of shoring up county hospitals, Los Angeles County's health department adopted patient transfer policies that have shifted large numbers of patients to private hospitals, but the private hospitals face financial problems of their own.
Private hospitals' challenges have been underscored in recent years as more hospitals closed.
Jim Lott, vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California, said, "We have less than one hospital bed per 1,000 residents here compared to 4.3 per 1,000 in the U.S."
Last summer's closure of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital further exacerbated the shortage of patient care options in Los Angeles, according to the Times.
Nine area clinics that have attempted to absorb uninsured patients since King-Harbor closed have seen a 157% increase in patient visits, according to Jim Mangia, who runs the consortium of clinics.
Meanwhile, a clinic at King-Harbor "is falling well below" its goal of 190,000 patient visits annually, the Times reports (Steinhauer, New York Times, 6/5).