COUNTYWIDE : More Money Asked for Indigent Care

After nine months of grappling with major issues in health care, a county task force suggested some solutions this week, including more money for community clinics.

Some of the issues in improving access of the poor to medical care must be resolved in Orange County, others in Sacramento, said state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach), who organized and chaired the Orange County Coalition for Health Care Solutions.

Bergeson noted that the recommendations "represent a majority opinion of the members--not necessarily a complete consensus." The 16-member group's suggestions included:

- Asking the Board of Supervisors to provide more money to local community clinics and consider "initiating county-operated clinics" to serve the poor. Currently, the county provides prenatal care and health screenings for children but does not offer general medical service to the poor.

- Encouraging arrangements between obstetricians, prenatal clinics and hospitals for prenatal care for indigent women. Hospitals that accept Medi-Cal are deluged with poor women at time of delivery who have had no prenatal care.

- Having Orange County declared an "open area" in the Medi-Cal system. Such a procedure would scrap the current method in which some local hospitals sign state contracts, agreeing to take indigent patients at a discounted rate. Instead, every local hospital would take some poor patients.

The task force, whose vice chairman was Supervisor Gaddi H. Vasquez, included an unusual mix of private and public leaders, some of whom had never met. They included hospital administrators, doctors, health care advocate Ellen Severoni, county Health Care Agency director Tom Uram and Clifford Allenby, secretary of California's Health and Welfare Agency. The task force is to continue this year as an advisory body to county supervisors.

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