Los Angeles County officials are considering strict limits on the number of uninsured patients that private hospitals can transfer to county facilities as part of an effort to keep its ailing health department afloat. A formal proposal could be introduced as early as this week. Currently, private hospitals can shift patients to county-run hospitals solely to avoid paying for their care, a situation that costs county taxpayers millions of dollars each year. Last year, the county accepted 11,243 transfer patients, mostly from private hospitals. A similar policy change was proposed in 1999 with the aim of saving $5 million per year, but the plan was dropped amid fierce opposition from private hospitals, which are mired in their own budget crises. But the idea has resurfaced as the county's options for shoring up its massive budget deficit appear to be dwindling. A federal judge last week tentatively blocked the county's plans to close Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, Downey, Calif., a 207-bed specialty hospital for victims of stroke and traumatic injury, and to reduce by 100 the bed count at County-USC Medical Center, Los Angeles. The cuts were projected to save the county $75 million in the first year alone. -- by Laura B. Benko
L.A. County considers transfer limits for uninsured
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