Orange : UCI Medical Center Posts 3-Month Loss

There is good news and bad news in a UCI Medical Center financial report to be presented to University of California regents in Los Angeles today.

The bad news is the UCI hospital had an operating loss of $1.5 million for the first three months of this fiscal year.

The good news is that the loss is lower than expected and the medical center actually finished the first quarter nearly $600,000 in the black, thanks to a state bail-out designed to offset debts.

Leon Schwartz, the center's acting director, credited cost containment for the lower-than-expected operating loss.

The medical center, which finished last fiscal year $9.6 million in the red, is the most debt-ridden of the University of California's five teaching hospitals, largely because the former county hospital treats a high percentage of poor patients.

Last June the state Legislature approved $15 million to offset this year's anticipated debts at the UC hospitals. UCI Medical Center received $8.5 million of the bailout.

Prorated over the year, the subsidy equals $2.12 million for each financial quarter. The medical center's first-quarter operating loss was $1.54 million. But because of the $2.12-million bail-out, the result was a $587,000 excess.

Operating expenses at the hospital increased by 5.6%, the lowest of the five teaching hospitals, according to the financial report.

"We're keeping tight controls on costs." Schwartz said.

The ratio of poor patients still has not dramatically changed, though, the report states. Fifty-seven percent of the medical center's funds come from Medi-Cal, Medicare and county health programs, which do not fully reimburse the hospital for expenses. That figure does not include "bad debts," or patients with no insurance who do not pay for their treatment, Schwartz said. No separate figure was given in the report for the costs of treating patients without insurance.

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