Thursday, February 14, 2008

LA County Govt Health clinics not sustainable


Los Angeles County healthcare officials unveiled a draft cost-cutting plan Wednesday that calls for closing all but one of the county's dozen clinics and reduces services at its six comprehensive outpatient health centers.

Officials said a $195-million deficit makes the cuts necessary even under a "best-case scenario" for the badly strapped public healthcare system. The county faces the threat of more reductions in state and federal aid in the next few months. Health department officials have privately floated the possibility of deeper cuts if the projected deficit grows.

The current proposal, if approved by the Board of Supervisors, would dramatically retreat from the county's longtime role in providing primary care to the indigent. The clinics and comprehensive centers get about 400,000 primary care visits a year, nearly two-thirds from uninsured patients.

Officials said they plan for private, nonprofit clinics to step into the gap and provide care to most of the displaced patients for a lower cost than the public system. The county currently has contracts with private clinics, and those would be expanded.