The old Gray Lady stumbles upon another story of why the Cenurbs are toast and procedes to mangle conclusion. So, what's new? Hospital emergency rooms have been closing all over the Southland for more than a decade. For years they have been a secret subsidy of the urban milieu but that became an unaffordable luxury as it drove health care costs for paying customers out of reach.
Here's the NYTimes:
“You call an ambulance and you think you’re going to St. Francis and they say it’s full,” said Denise Provost, whose largely untreated asthma routinely sends her to the emergency room. “So they take you to Kaiser. If that’s full, then it’s Long Beach. You go way out of your way.”
The vast majority of residents in central Los Angeles are uninsured or are on the state’s Medicaid program — known as Medical — which offers the lowest reimbursement rates in the nation, and a growing population of illegal immigrants who are not eligible for government insurance have flooded the ranks of the uninsured.
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.
Roughly 14 percent of the nation’s uninsured live in California, and one in three visits to a Los Angeles emergency room are made by someone without insurance. Many of those patients have conditions that have gone untreated for months and need to be admitted, further straining hospital resources.
From 2000 to 2006, the number of Medicaid-covered patients using the South Los Angeles hospitals on Medicaid increased 18 percent and the uninsured ranks rose more than 20 percent, while patients with commercial coverage fell 20 percent, according to the hospital association’s figures.
As a result, many hospitals in the South Los Angeles area are unable to stay afloat, and centers that once served 100,000 patients here have closed.
I have two phrases for the policy makers to consider as the struggle with the problem of their own construction: "attractive nuisance" and "economic disincentive." There's no mystery here except why anyone is confused over the situation.