Our hospitals are in crisis, why is the state legislature asleep at the wheel?

The L.A. Times has reported that “Nearly two dozen private hospitals in Los Angeles and Orange counties, accounting for up to 15% of beds in the region, are in dire financial straits and in danger of bankruptcy or closure, according to hospital administrators, industry experts and state data.”

Here is the key excerpt from the Times article:

The financial woes result from a multitude of developments:

* An increasing load of uninsured and low-income patients has resulted from overcrowding and the shutdown of public facilities. The number of uninsured patients visiting private hospitals, particularly in poor areas, has increased by one-third in Los Angeles County since 2002. California’s Medi-Cal program for the poor reimburses hospitals at one of the lowest rates in the country.

* The closure of Martin Luther King Jr.-Harbor Hospital in Willowbrook last month left half a dozen nearby hospitals to absorb most of the 47,000 patients who used the public hospital’s emergency room last year.

* Smaller community hospitals are drawing fewer patients as a few larger facilities attract a growing share of doctors and insured patients.

* As insurers have consolidated in recent years, they’ve squeezed many smaller facilities. Private insurance companies generally pay higher rates to larger hospitals with greater bargaining power.

* New, stricter state mandates on nursing ratios have raised labor costs, and a 2013 deadline to retrofit all hospitals to better withstand a major earthquake is estimated to be costing medical facilities $110 billion statewide.

Why has the state legislature allowed this problem to fester to the point of near crisis? “Since 1996, more than 70 community hospitals have closed across the state, with a disproportionate share — more than 50 — in Southern California. Regionally, 14 emergency rooms have closed in the last five years, including 10 in Los Angeles County.” How could the state legislature let that happen?

I know that the Minuteman types will reflexively blame immigrants for this crisis. I think there is more to the story.

The unspoken truth about this crisis is that trial lawyers have sued our medical system into submission. But you never hear about that because trial lawyers are a major power base for the Democratic Party, which has a stranglehold on our state legislature.

A trial lawyer is even in charge of the California Medical Association, which is supposed to represent California’s physicians. Talk about putting the fox in charge of the hen house! I am talking about former state legislator Joe Dunn. What has Dunn been doing to avert the hospital crisis? Why are we just now hearing about it?

Here are a few ideas for the state legislature to ponder:

  • Do not allow people who don’t pay for their medical services to sue their doctors. Make them sign a waiver to that effect. If you cannot pay for your hospital or doctor bills, you shouldn’t be suing your healthcare providers.
  • Reverse the ill-conceived nurse limit law as it pertains to medical facilities in financial crisis, and/or those that serve the poor. As usual the state legislature passed that law in order to pander to a union.
  • If the state legislature is going to mandate the earthquake fixes, then they ought to be helping the hospitals that are broke to pay for them, or give them more time.
  • Tell the insurance companies they are going to pay the same rates to all the hospitals, then take away their ability to sell insurance if they charge the smaller hospitals more.
  • Stop banning Wal Marts! The Wal Mart super stores include low cost medical clinics that are an excellent private market solution to this crisis.
  • Encourage low cost medical clinics to open up in communities that need them – and ban lawyers from suing them.

People in my area keep praising Dunn, years after he left office. Well, lets see what the guys is made of. His claim to fame is suing the tobacco industry into submission. I wonder if he can do something to reverse our hospital crisis? Unless he is willing to take on his fellow trial lawyers, unions and the insurance industry, not to mention his former peers in the state legislature, the answer will be a resounding “no!”

About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.