Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hospital Care Is Becoming Less Public and More Private

The New York Times reported on June 5, 2008, about the state of hospital care in the United States in light of the significant reductions in federal and state sources of funding.  The problem is especially acute in poor communities.  Here is an excerpt from an article focusing on Southern California, but similar circumstances exist elsewhere:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has proposed another 10 percent cut in the state’s Medicaid program to balance the state’s budget while Congress contemplates a host of reductions to the program that, if approved, would mean $240 million less for Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County’s health department, the provider of last resort, is sagging under its own budget woes, and it adopted complex patient-transfer policies that have shifted an increasing number of its indigent patients to private hospitals, which are in barely better financial shape.

“We have an all-out crisis here,” said Carol Meyer, the director of governmental relations for the Los Angeles County Health Services Department. “In terms of lack of access to care, emergency room overcrowding and total underfunding of the health care system.”

In many ways, the woes of South Los Angeles mirror other poor urban health care systems. Medical centers in Philadelphia, Washington, Cleveland and elsewhere have closed or fallen into bankruptcy in recent years, leaving patients scrambling.

Also, Medicaid reductions in recent years have helped contribute to the rising tide of the uninsured — roughly 2.2 million more in 2006 than in the previous year — largely because of a decrease in employer-sponsored insurance and Medicaid reductions.

For the entire article, see "A City Where Hospitals Are As Ill As Patients" in the June 5, 2008, issue of the New York Times.


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