Residents of Low-Income Areas Have Limited Access to Health Care, Report Finds
Uninsured Sacramento County residents who live in low-income areas are less likely than other county residents to have access to regular physician care, which can prevent future hospitalizations, according to a report released Wednesday by Catholic Healthcare West, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The CHW study analyzed hospital admissions per 1,000 residents in 23 states to help determine grant allocations for community health programs. In FY 2004, CHW spent $2.3 million on community health grants.
According to the Bee, not-for-profit hospital systems in California "have powerful incentives to spend money on public health" because "money spent on the uninsured in clinics prevents far costlier hospital visits." For example, the CHW analysis found that three visits to a clinic to treat many common chronic diseases would cost about $760, while a hospital admission would cost about $5,567 for a severe asthma attack, $4,200 for an ear infection and $7,270 for pneumonia and bronchitis.
Using the study data, CHW-owned Mercy San Juan Medical Center identified North Highlands as one Sacramento County area in need of additional public health funding. CHW plans to spend $300,000 annually in North Highlands to open a community clinic at a local school in an effort to improve access to care, but plans have not yet been finalized.
Amerish Bera, an assistant dean of admissions at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine and former head of primary care clinics for Sacramento County, said, "From a public health standpoint, putting clinics in schools is very cost-effective because you can see results in improved school attendance and reduced need for emergency room visits."
Robert David of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California said, "Clearly, not-for-profit hospitals have an obligation to invest health resources in their community, and it makes the most sense to target the patients who have low access to adequate health care" (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 3/10).
In other Sacramento County news, city officials said Sacramento health insurance costs would increase from $27.5 million to $68.6 million by 2013 unless steps are taken soon to address rising health care costs. Under the projection, insurance costs would account for about 17% of the city's general fund by 2013, compared to 8% in 2003.
To reduce the projection, the city is considering reducing cash-back payments to employees who opt out of health insurance plans, which have left a disproportionate number of retirees and older employees in the system.
Sacramento City Council member Steve Cohn said, "I would say health costs ... are the most important issue going forward. It will either have to come out of employee benefits or city services."
In addition, health insurance premiums in Sacramento County have doubled over the past decade, and county officials said they likely will double again over the next 10 years (Reese, Sacramento Bee, 3/9).