Report Looks at Money and the Uninsured

More need, less money — that seems to be the summary of every report on health care in California. So researcher Kiwon Yoo was somewhat surprised to see in her own report for Insure the Uninsured Project that funding for counties was not in steep decline in the years she studied, 2006 to 2009.

“There is rising unemployment and a rising number of uninsured during that time, but funding streams remain somewhat stagnant,” Yoo said. “So it was not a precipitous fall, as people thought it would be.”

In fact, the total county funding match rose 1.6 percent — that is, funding from state and federal sources actually rose slightly. “That includes money from vehicle license fees, tobacco settlement funds” and other temporary funding sources, she said. “And these numbers only go up to 2009, and some of the budget measures don’t take effect till 2011 or 2012.”

So some of the findings in her overview of uninsured in California are heartening in one way, she said. But because of health care budget cuts that haven’t yet hit, she added: “This may be the edge of the cliff before it falls off.”

Federal funding from national health care reform should make a difference — and it can’t come soon enough for California, Yoo said.

“In terms of other states, California may be a step ahead, maybe two. California may be faring a little better, but that may not be saying much.”

In California hospitals, she said, bad debt charity care has increased by about 25% percent in a three-year period.

“The hospital burden is increasing,” Yoo said. “It went from $2.1 billion to $2.6 billion” between 2006 and 2009.

But hospital revenue, even in rural areas, is on the rise, she said. Although expenses also rose during those years, Yoo said the increase in hospital revenue outpaced the increase in expenses. “Hospital revenues doubled in that time,” Yoo said, “so they’re making quite a bit of money.”

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