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Health Care Reform Presents New Opportunities in L.A.

Health Care Reform Presents New Opportunities in L.A.
Michael Cousineau at the "State of the City Report" press conference

Provisions of the federal health care reform law passed earlier this year will have a profound impact on Los Angeles and surrounding communities.

While more than 1.9 million residents will become eligible for new health insurance options, public hospitals and community health centers will face challenges in caring for those who remain uninsured, according to a report by Michael Cousineau, associate professor of research and director of the Center for Community Health Studies at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“The good news is that is that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in March provides an important framework for Los Angeles and other cities to turn the corner and solve some of these problems,” Cousineau said. “The law presents a remarkable opportunity to improve health and reduce health care disparities in Los Angeles.”

Cousineau discussed his findings Oct. 5 at the 2010 “Los Angeles: State of the City Report” press conference at California State University, Los Angeles.

The report, published by the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs, features articles from eight regional experts on critical issues impacting the quality of life in Los Angeles — including the economy, immigration, housing, transportation, sustainable development and health care reform.

Currently, there are around 2.7 million uninsured residents in Los Angeles County, Cousineau said. Many will benefit from new state-run insurance exchanges, signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, that provide coverage options for individuals and small businesses. The law also enables uninsured people to obtain coverage through Medicaid if they have family incomes less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

However, undocumented immigrants are ineligible for most provisions of the new law and will continue to rely on public hospitals and clinics for health care, he said. Safety net hospitals, including Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center, facing reductions in public funding will have to reorganize to keep newly insured patients in their system of care, while retaining the capacity to serve those who remain uninsured.

Some components of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will take effect in 2010, while others will be phased in over the next four years.

“Additional work needs to be done to improve provider participation in Medi-Cal, increase the number of clinicians practicing in Los Angeles’ underserved communities and stabilize our system of hospitals and health centers,” the report concludes.

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Health Care Reform Presents New Opportunities in L.A.

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