VENTURA COUNTY: Grand Jury Supports Public Hospital’s Access to Tobacco Funds
Ventura County officials should "vigorously" support its public health care system -- the "largest -- and cheapest providers of services to the uninsured," according to a recommendation made by the county's Grand Jury in a report released earlier this week (Koehler, Ventura County Star, 6/14). According the report, Ventura County Medical Center provided inpatient care to 90.8% of the county's inpatient care to indigent, poor patients who are ineligible for state or federal health insurance through Medi-Cal or Medicare (Talev, Los Angeles Times, 6/14). To some, the report's "timing and content" appear to be a response to an ballot initiative proposed by Community Memorial Hospital, one of the county's private health care providers. If passed in November, the initiative would "bar the public health system from any tobacco settlement funds" -- estimated at $261 million over the next 25 years. The report drew fire from Community Memorial spokesperson Mark Barnhill, who called it a "thinly veiled attack on the initiative," and contends that it was based on "out of date and irrelevant numbers." He added, "If the Grand Jury is going to look at the treatment of indigents in the county, to use this particular state data is specious. This appears to be another attempt to manipulate numbers and paint a false picture of what the initiative purports to do" (Ventura County Star, 6/14). Community Memorial has argued that as a public hospital, Ventura Medical Center already receives county funding to cover the care of indigent patients. Private hospitals, however, are "financially stretched" because they provide the same care often without receiving reimbursement (Los Angeles Times, 6/14).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.