Patient Dumping Proposal Could Face Court Challenge
Legal experts are questioning the effectiveness of a measure (SB 275) introduced last week by Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) that is intended to curb "patient dumping" by hospitals, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The bill would make it a misdemeanor for a hospital facility or worker to transport patients to a location other than their residences without the patient's informed consent. It would punish individual offenders by a maximum of two years in jail and a possible fine of up to $1,000. Facilities that violate the measure could face penalties of up to $10,000 (Winton, Los Angeles Times, 2/25).
State and local authorities in Los Angeles are investigating 55 cases of alleged patient dumping in the Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles. However, the absence of any law prohibiting such an act has made it difficult for authorities to file charges (California Healthline, 2/22).
Legal experts doubt whether the law could be effective without including plans for providing more shelter and services for chronically ill homeless patients who can leave the hospital but cannot seek continuing medical services.
Cedillo says the law would give prosecutors better tools to prosecute hospitals for dumping, but some legal experts say the law creates an "unfunded mandate" that hospitals are solely responsible for finding housing and care for patients after they are treated and discharged.
Furthermore, homeless services officials said there is not enough funding for long-term housing, especially for homeless people who have medical conditions or mental problems (Los Angeles Times, 2/25).
"It sounds almost silly to say that there ought to be a law against a hospital dumping" patients in the street because "[y]ou'd think such a thing was surely already illegal," a Sacramento Bee editorial states. According to the editorial, hospitals likely will say the answer to the problem is in providing more social services for the homeless, but the explanation does not justify recent reports of patient dumping (Sacramento Bee, 2/25).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.