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Trauma Care Finance Crisis

November 08, 1987

The Times editorial "The Hospital Crisis" (Oct. 26) presents an accurate summary of the events leading to the current financial crisis in our trauma care network. Although much of the media attention has been focused on the problems in Los Angeles County, the Assembly Office of Research report I requested shows that the same financial problems are hitting trauma centers throughout the state.

The estimate for statewide losses of $130.8 million this year by hospitals and physicians within the network begins to put the problem in its proper perspective.

It is simply impossible for hospitals and doctors to continue to handle the increase in medically indigent trauma patients, while at the same time sustaining the severe cutbacks by the Deukmejian Administration in state health care programs.

During the first year of service by the Los Angeles County trauma centers, 30% of the patients were medically indigent. That figure has now risen to 60%. The state's reimbursement rate for these patients has dropped from 70%, when responsibility for their medical care was first transferred to the counties in 1982, to less than 50% today.

The trauma care system was designed to provide the kind of specialized medical care that is necessary to save the lives of trauma victims by ensuring that we get the "right patient to the right hospital at the right time." This often involves private hospitals treating victims who may not even live in their service area and may not have the ability to pay for this expensive care.

When the public health was threatened by toxic wastes, a "Superfund" was established with state funds to reimburse private corporations and local governments for clean-up costs. It was clearly recognized that this expensive but necessary task was too costly for private corporations or local governments to perform adequately.

The health and well-being of all of the citizens of this state are equally threatened by the closure of trauma centers. Remember, if our trauma system collapses, it is not just the medically indigent who will suffer. All individuals who become the victim of a serious accident will no longer have this excellent care available to them.

When the Legislature reconvenes in January, my legislative colleagues and I will once again ask the governor to live up to the state's commitment to compensate trauma centers for their loses in treating the medically indigent.


Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore

D-Los Angeles

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