Los Angeles Times Examines Impact of UCI Medical Center Decision To End Care for Some Indigent Patients
The Los Angeles Times on Friday examined the impact that a decision last week by the University of California-Irvine Medical Center to end non-emergency services for some indigent patients will have on the Orange County indigent health care system (Anton, Los Angeles Times, 8/2). Under the new policy, indigent patients who do not reside within five miles of the medical center or within two miles of satellite clinics in Anaheim and Santa Ana will qualify only for emergency care services. The medical center revised the policy as a result of low indigent care reimbursements from the county. Under the county Medical Services for Indigents program, the medical center receives funds to provide care for indigent, uninsured residents ages 21 to 64 (California Healthline, 8/1). According to the Times, "it was unclear how quickly the effects of the new policy would be seen." Although county officials plan to contract with other hospitals to "fill the void," patient advocates said that the new medical center policy will "stretch" the county's indigent health care system "to the breaking point" and will "hit hard" unemployed county residents and those who do not qualify for Medi-Cal or Medicare. "I believe there will be an impact on the emergency rooms," Nancy Rimsha, director of the Health Consumer Action Center at the Legal Aid Society of Orange County, said. "I believe there will be an impact on the community clinics. In some cases, the patients will go without care and will get sicker," she added (Los Angeles Times, 8/2).
UCI Medical Center "has been saddled with trying to heal too many" indigent patients in Orange County, and the "victims are the working people who fall ill," according to a Los Angeles Times editorial. The medical center's "not-gonna-take-it-anymore stance should finally galvanize bureaucrats and politicians, who have known that UCI would take this action but have been molasses-slow to cure their own program for the medically indigent," the editorial states. According to the editorial, the county administers an "underfunded and inefficient system that emphasizes care for only the most urgently ill" and does not provide coverage for primary care, which forces many indigent patients to "line up at the county's already burdened community clinics" or emergency rooms. The editorial concludes, "A better-managed system is needed. With health costs rising for everyone, government at all levels must put more money toward medical care for these people. Their care is both a moral and legal obligation" (Los Angeles Times, 8/4).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.