Los Angeles Times Examines Los Angeles County Health Department’s Fiscal Crisis
It is "unclear" whether the state and federal governments will offer Los Angeles County a financial "safety net" to address the projected $688 million deficit in the county's Department of Health Services budget, the Los Angeles Times reports in a news analysis (Riccardi, Los Angeles Times, 5/24). County officials traveled to Washington, D.C., last month to ask federal officials to provide the county a block grant and additional payments for outpatient care. The county faced bankruptcy in 1995 before receiving a $1 billion federal bailout, which is scheduled to be phased out beginning next year. The department is considering three plans to address the projected budget deficit: a "pessimistic" but "unlikely" plan that would close most public hospitals and more than 100 health clinics; a plan, considered likely, that would convert some hospitals into large-scale outpatient facilities; and an "optimistic" plan that would close one emergency room, eliminate trauma services at one hospital and make changes at a few other hospitals (California Healthline, 5/23). With the state facing a $22 billion budget shortfall and federal lawmakers "preoccupied with the war against terror," there is less additional money "available for any rescue effort," the Times reports. Although the county has amassed a $500 million reserve that could be used to "stave off collapse for a year or two," Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California said that this time the county "can't, by itself, solve its financial problems" (Los Angeles Times, 5/24). The full article is available online.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.