VENTURA COUNTY: CMH Sues County over Tobacco Settlement
Community Memorial Hospital yesterday filed suit against the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, charging that the county is trying to deny residents their right to vote by blocking a ballot initiative that, if approved, would give the county's tobacco settlement to private hospitals. The suit alleges that the county is "fiscally inept ... and depriving the public of needed health care dollars to make up for past financial mismanagement." According to CMH, private hospitals serve 46% of the county's uninsured and indigent patients, but receive no compensation for that care. Meanwhile, county hospitals serve 54% of the uninsured and poor population, but also takes in $42 million in reimbursements. Hospital executives say they would use $260 million in tobacco monies to fund health programs for the young, working poor and elderly. "Rather than allow the tobacco settlement (money) to be used to bail the board out of its mismanagement, the voters want the money to be used for a compelling public purpose, health care," the suit argues. Supervisor Frank Schillo called CMH's claim that private hospitals care for 46% of the county's indigent "bald-faced lies." He said: "We have reports that show the county takes care of 90% of the indigent. We'll fight this to the end. If [CMH] wins, that means anyone can make a grab for county money. That's why it's unconstitutional." A Ventura County Superior Court judge will hear the case July 19. Meanwhile, supervisors yesterday agreed to allocate the entire tobacco settlement to health care should they win the lawsuit (Kelly, Los Angeles Times, 6/28).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.