State Audit Recommends That Los Angeles County Health Care Facilities Limit Medical Services for Undocumented Immigrants
Los Angeles County hospitals should consider limiting nonemergency care for undocumented immigrants, according to a recent state audit of the county hospital system, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday discussed the audit, which estimated that the county currently spends about $340 million annually on medical care for non-U.S. citizens. Limiting emergency services could save the county between $130 million and $138 million annually, according to the audit.
About 53% of the 800,000 annual patients at county health facilities are uninsured and receive care even though hospitals legally are not required to provide treatment, the report stated. The county Department of Health Services estimates that undocumented immigrants comprise 12% to 19% of discharges and clinic visits at county health care facilities.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said, "They audited us like they audit General Motors or U.S. Steel," adding, "There is no critical thinking or sophistication to analyze an arcane health care finance system that we all have to live with in this country."
County DHS Director Thomas Garthwaite and other county officials said not providing care to undocumented immigrants would cause additional public health problems.
"We continue to follow what has been a long-standing board policy," Garthwaite said. "If we don't provide nonemergency services to people with chronic diseases, there is an overwhelming likelihood they will end up acutely ill and we'll have to treat them in our emergency rooms at that time."
Assembly member Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) plans to hold a hearing on Friday to discuss the audit and the future of the county health system (Anderson, Los Angeles Daily News, 3/30).