County Officials Ask Congress to Oppose Bush Medicare Cuts

From a Times Staff Writer

A delegation of county supervisors from California lobbied Congress on Tuesday in opposition to President Bush’s proposed cuts in Medicare payments to hospitals, arguing that their health “safety nets” for the needy already are strained by a lack of money.

The 150 county officials also said they oppose Bush’s plan to reduce mass transit subsidies and impose a 20% cut in U.S. payments to the counties for timber logged on federal lands inside their borders.

They told members of California’s congressional delegation that they oppose earmarking of any increase in the federal gasoline tax for deficit reduction. They said they favor placing any added gas tax money in the highway trust fund for the benefit of motorists.

Bill Coates, a Plumas County supervisor who heads the County Supervisors Assn. of California, said the counties have been asked to provide more services, while federal aid for many programs has been reduced sharply in the last decade.


“With the recent demise of general revenue sharing, California counties overnight lost $250 million a year in discretionary funds desperately needed,” he said at a news conference.

Coates said county hospitals often are the last resort for recent immigrants and residents without health insurance.

“Unfortunately, we’ve got so many folks landing in our safety net (that) we can’t support the load,” he said. “If we don’t take care of them, they’re going to die. The worst job in the world is trying to run a safety net without any money.”