Negotiations could yield healthcare deal in Capitol

SACRAMENTO -- County officials and Gov. Jerry Brown's administration are inching toward a compromise on healthcare funding.

The potential deal is the result of intense negotiations, including face-to-face meetings, phone calls and late-night text messages.


"This is the biggest issue in the budget on healthcare," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access, an advocacy group.

The talks center on how much money will be shifted from counties to Sacramento, a key part of Brown's plan to finance the state's expansion of California's healthcare program for the poor.

Diana Dooley, the health and human services secretary, told The Times that negotiations were making progress. She said Friday that she was "exchanging texts with my friends in L.A. County at 11:30 last night."

"We've been working around the clock," Dooley said. "We're working very hard to land this. It is very, very complicated."

Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Executive Ryan Alsop said counties and the state have been able to resolve most of their differences.

"We're very, very close to coming to some kind of agreement," he said.

The final details are still being worked out. But, Alsop said, counties will probably have to give up money faster than they wanted, and the state will probably achieve less savings than it sought.

Alsop said counties successfully opposed Brown's initial proposal to make counties responsible for social services like child care. However, he said, a new formula would probably shift some money from county healthcare to other state programs to free up more money in Sacramento.

Brown says counties won't need as much money because more poor people will be covered by the state and private insurance under the federal healthcare overhaul.

But county officials and healthcare advocates say there will still be plenty of poor, uninsured people who will need publicly funded medical care. Wright said that, from his understanding of the healthcare talks, the potential agreement is still "not a good deal" for poor patients.

“At the moment we’re expanding access to some under the Affordable Care Act, we’re curtailing access to safety net coverage to others," he said.



Twitter: @chrismegerian