Los Angeles Law Aimed at ‘Patient Dumping’ Drawing Criticism
Hospital officials are questioning a new Los Angeles ordinance that bars hospitals from discharging patients anywhere other than their residence without written consent, the Wall Street Journal reports.
If hospitals violate the law, they can be charged with misdemeanors, raising concerns that such a charge would jeopardize hospitals' eligibility to participate in federally funded health care programs, such as Medicare and Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program.
The Hospital Association of Southern California is pursuing the matter with CMS, asking what effect a conviction would have on Medicare and Medi-Cal funding.
HASC also has directed an attorney to investigate whether the city ordinance violates state law.
According to the Journal, Los Angeles lacks sufficient "recuperative beds," prompting private hospitals and county agencies to fund a pilot program to increase the number. Patients are discharged to recuperative housing when they need some ongoing medical attention.
In addition, James Lott, executive vice president of HASC, says that hospital emergency departments are treating more patients in recent years, in part because many county clinics have closed.
Some hospital officials and employees argue that shelters are using the law as an excuse not to prioritize admitting homeless people when they are discharged from hospitals.
Carol Meyer, director of government relations for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, says that 30 to 50 homeless people who do not require medical services stay in a county hospital every night as a result of the law (Rundle, Wall Street Journal, 8/2).