County expands public care system to poorest patients

The nation's most populous county is attempting to its expand its public healthcare system for its poorest residents ahead of federal healthcare reform, providing a needed financial boost for its stressed hospitals, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The plan in Los Angeles County, home to 10 million residents, is to expand coverage to 550,000 low-income individuals, assigning them medical homes at community clinics. The program, known as Healthy Way L.A., is open to any resident with income at 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Enrollment typically takes place when uninsured patients seek care at the county's five public hospitals or more than 100 community clinics. The program does not extend outside of the county's boundaries.

The intent is to keep those new enrollees within Los Angeles County's public health system after 2014, when federal healthcare reform kicks in and they can choose any provider they wish.

"Our survival depends on it," said Dr. Mitchell Katz, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. "If people have choice, they won't choose us and the system will implode." Katz noted that the county system could potentially lose billions of dollars in funding to private providers if they don't' retain such patients.

For more information:
- read the Los Angeles Times article
- visit the Healthy Way L.A. website