The UC Board of Regents on Friday approved a resolution supporting UCI Medical Center's proposal to cancel its Medi-Cal contract if the state refuses to increase reimbursement rates for Orange County hospitals, a hospital spokeswoman said.
UCI Chancellor Jack W. Peltason told the regents he wants Medi-Cal officials to rebuild the network of Orange County hospitals willing to accept indigent patients to ease the burden on UCI Medical Center, said Susan Meister, a public affairs representative for UCI's Health Science Division.
Meister said the Board of Regents' approval in San Francisco on Friday authorizes UCI Medical Center officials to proceed with the cancellation of the Medi-Cal contract should hospital officials decide to do so. But she emphasized that negotiations are continuing with the state over the medical care contract.
Officials at the school-run hospital in Orange want Medi-Cal officials to increase the amount of reimbursement given annually for treatment of poor patients.
Meister noted that the medical center maintains 6% of the hospital beds in Orange County but treats half the county's Medi-Cal patients.
"There has to be a truly equitable distribution of indigent patients before we will consider that the (Medi-Cal) network has been reconstructed" in Orange County, she said.
There are 24 acute-care hospitals in the county, and only three accept Medi-Cal patients. Most of those declining to accept Medi-Cal patients terminated their contracts with the health group within the last year, Meister said.
"We will continue to take more than our fair share, but not half of the (Medi-Cal) patients (in the county)," she said.
Other hospitals that currently have Medi-Cal contracts have indicated that they may drop out of the program if UCI Medical Center does so.
UCI Medical Center is the only UC hospital that operated in the red last year, losing $11.2 million, and hospital officials said they are being reimbursed for less than half the cost of caring for Medi-Cal patients.
Medi-Cal officials could not be reached for comment.
County health workers have warned that if UCI drops its Medi-Cal patients, it could create a domino effect in the county and the remaining hospitals that accept the state-supported patients would drop out of the program.