SAN DIEGO: Approves Health Reform, Mental Health Managed Care Proposals
The San Diego County "Board of Supervisors yesterday approved a report recommending a broad range of reforms for the region's health care system proposed" by the Regional Healthcare Advisory Council. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the council "recommended last month expanding care for the poor, centralizing health administrative services for indigent and closing duplicated facilities to save money" (click here for more detail on the council's recommendations). However, now the county must tackle the "difficult job of implementing such proposals, many of which may be opposed because they might cut revenue for some medical providers, increase costs for some businesses or require county funds." The Union-Tribune reports that the "thrust of the advisory council's report is that some local regulation is needed to address the vicious nature of the region's highly competitive health care marketplace, where employer costs for health insurance have gone down, but the number of uninsured has stayed high." Local authorities note that one reason for this is that many of the area's employers are small businesses and are likely to limit insurance coverage. One in four of the residents of the San Diego area have no coverage, versus one in six nationally.
One possible stumbling block for the reform proposal is cost. Supervisor Ron Roberts, co-chair of the panel, said that "he probably could support the advisory council's view that more county money may be needed to implement the proposals." However, supervisor Bill Horm said he would oppose any such additional expenditure. He said, "If anything comes back that smells like a tax for small businesses, I will be against it." The Union-Tribune reports that while "the county does not plan to allocate any additional funds for the reorganization effort ... requests already are under way" (Dalton, 3/18).
Go San Diego
In related regional news, the Board of Supervisors approved a plan yesterday to "hire private firms to manage six service centers for people with serious mental illness." The Union-Tribune reports that the "vote brought the board closer to its stated goals of using a managed care approach to stretch scarce mental health dollars, while shifting some financial risk to private firms." The county has awarded San Francisco-based United Behavioral Health a three-year contract worth $13.2 million "to run [its] adult mental health system." The company "will hire the service provider firms for the six centers that serve about 28,000 mental health clients ... who have no health insurance or who cannot afford to pay for the care" (Brooks, 3/18).