LOS ANGELES: School District Proposes To Expand Health Services
In an "unusual" partnership, Los Angeles County may team up with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the federal government to "provide medical care for children who otherwise might" go without, the Los Angeles Times reports. The county Board of Supervisors yesterday announced plans to funnel as much $50 million to the school district to "beef up" health services. The proposal would expand the county's own public health network to include the school district, and use "as much as $50 million a year" in funds that the county receives from the federal government. The federal Health Care Financing Administration "match[es] every dollar that the county spends on clinic-based health care," and the supervisors believe "since schoolchildren are, essentially, covered by the county health system, that school-based clinics should also receive matching funds," the Times reports.
Take Two And Call Me In The Morning
Currently, school districts can only identify sick children and send them home, with no assurance the children will receive medical attention. But under the new proposal, students would be treated by doctors or nurse practitioners at the schools or in nearby clinics. County officials believe this will help keep "minor maladies such as ear infections and sore throats" from progressing into "serious -- and costly -- illnesses." The Times reports that "more than a third" of the county's kids are uninsured, and when they get sick, 271,000 "are sent home to be treated by doctors their families can't afford or to endure the hours-long wait at a public health clinic." Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said, "What we are doing is providing a medical home for these uninsured kids. Instead of sending them off to find health care, we'll be bringing health care to them."
The Get Along Gang?
The Times reports that the federal government has already approved similar programs in "more than a dozen states," although the ventures have joined the state, rather than the county, with school districts. County supervisors are optimistic their plan will receive the federal government's nod. It already has received "tentative approval" from the Health Care Financing Administration. Yaroslavsky said, "We've talked to them, and they are very receptive to this. They just need an application." Sally Richardson, director of HCFA's Center for Medicaid and State Operations, expressed her approval for the plan, saying "her agency has been favorably disposed to such proposals because 'schools are where most recipients of (federal health benefits) are found. This sort of program has the advantage of reaching our clients where they are.'" Ruben Zacaria, superintendent of the school district, also "praised the effort, saying that many of the district students often go without medical care" because the district's health services are limited. So while all parties involved seem to be moving forward, the Times reports that the "proposal may not be without controversy: The district does provide some reproductive health services to teenage girls, but only with parental consent" (Meyer, 10/16).