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Board of Supervisors' Role in Medical Care for Poor

March 20, 1988

Having attended the Board of Supervisors hearing, I was amazed at your headline and copy ("County Will Use Grant to Aid Poor," Feb. 24). The board does not deserve to be commended for its action.

The state gave $6.1 million of unallocated health-care system support to Orange County for its discretionary use. The Orange County Medical Assn., the Hospital Council and the United Way urged that most of the money go to support the indigent medical services program. We met with the board members, presented our position in writing and testified directly.

After the brief opportunity to speak, the supervisors proceeded to an exercise in self-laudatory praise. They credited themselves for the partnership for health as it exists in the indigent medical services program.

The truth is that no partnership exists. The state funds the program at a major level of deficiency. Physicians receive 37% of their billed charges. Hospitals receive 28%. The program is 5 years old--the county has not contributed a nickel. This was obviously an exercise of political hallucination.

A moment of emotional beratement for the lack of state equity funding was well noted; it is very real. Unfortunately, the people who manage our county affairs have the responsibility and are accountable for this system. Orange County has a shortfall of $45 million.

Recovery is not likely, however. As the story noted, "$1.1 million was set aside for the health care and social services in the next fiscal year's budget, when officials predict financial constraints are going to be even tighter."

The United Way advised of a health care crisis. Reality is upon us. The Board of Supervisors will have to be accountable.

JOHN J. RETTE

Executive Director

Orange County Medical Assn.

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