The release of a study by the University of California-Los Angeles showing public health programs in Los Angeles County are "in danger of collapse" has set off alarms among hospitals and physician groups.
The study, by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, was released at the start of a summit meeting last month attended by providers and local, state and federal government officials.
The study provides an overview of the health issues facing the country's largest metropolitan area in the next three years. It shows that despite enormous healthcare needs, increasingly overburdened systems are faced with funding cuts.
"Without intervention, no less than $425 million in revenue needed to support hospital and physician*.*.*.*emergency and trauma...mental health and public health services may be lost, nearly 20% of the county's operating budget for health," the study said.
Most of the cuts would come in federal funding for outpatient treatment of Medicaid recipients, said David Langness, vice president of communications at the Hospital Council of Southern California.
"If that occurs, we would probably have to close several county hospitals," he said.
To counter the threatened loss of federal funding, "we will begin by lobbying, and if that doesn't work, there is talk about preparing some sort of ballot initiative that would guarantee funding for these essential community providers, both public and private," Mr. Langness said.
The UCLA study showed that one-third of the county's nonelderly population-more than 2.6 million people-have no health insurance. The uninsured are predominantly low-income people, Latinos and employees of small businesses. Lacking access to primary and preventive healthcare, they rely on emergency rooms and trauma centers, which "are on the verge of collapse," the study said.
"Slightly more than half of Los Angeles' 2-year-olds are adequately immunized, and tuberculosis and other communicable diseases have increased after decades of retreat. AIDS is now the leading cause of death among men ages 25 to 44, and rates of injury and death due to violence are among the highest in the nation," the study said.