California's 26 public hospitals face a combined budget deficit of at least $3 billion over the next five years, according to the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems. Although they account for only 6% of hospitals in the state, public hospitals absorbed 55%, or $1.6 billion, of the cost of treating California's 6.3 million uninsured in 2001, the association said in a new report. County-owned hospitals saw their total number of uninsured discharges rise 13.3% between 1995 and 2001, while nonpublic hospitals saw a 12.8% decline over the same period. Partly as a result, public hospitals' expenses have climbed 53% since 1995, the report said. Meanwhile, California has proposed major cuts to healthcare funding to deal with a $34 billion state budget deficit. If the divergent trends continue, public hospitals will be forced to make "Draconian" service cuts, including closing emergency rooms and trauma centers, the report said. -- by Laura B. Benko
Calif. public hospitals $3 billion short of funds: report
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