GOP Health Care Bill Will Harm County, Say Supes

June 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Four of the five members of the Board of Supervisors said Tuesday that the pending Senate bill to repeal Obamacare would be a damaging step backward for Los Angeles County.

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, flanked by fellow Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas, Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis, told healthcare providers and community advocates gathered outside the downtown Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration, “We mean to stop this bill.”

Department of Health Services Director Mitchell Katz said more than 1.2 million county residents gained health insurance coverage under the expansion of Medicaid or health care exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, which meant “they no longer had to wait days for care in emergency rooms” and could afford the medications they needed to stay healthy.

“All of that’s in jeopardy now,” Katz said.

California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris are opposed to the Senate proposal — the Better Care Reconciliation Act — and all of their Democratic Party colleagues are also expected to vote against it. The Republican Party needs at least 50 of its 52 members to pass the bill, even if it relies on Vice President Mike Pence for a tie-breaking vote.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, had pressed for a vote before the Senate’s scheduled 4th of July recess. However, that vote was postponed after several Republican senators expressed concerns, with some criticizing the bill as doing too little to unwind Obamacare and others worried that it would hit their constituents too hard.

Tuesday’s rally was about making sure everyone understands the consequences, said Louise McCarthy, president and CEO of the Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County.

“The thing that’s most notable about this fight is the fact that it really doesn’t know boundaries because of social media,” McCarthy said. “The more people hear stories, they understand that they’re actually connected to these issues.”

Residents who don’t rely on Medicaid or the ACA for health insurance will also feel the effects if Obamacare is repealed, she said.
“If you think this doesn’t impact you, hop in the line at the emergency room once there are 22 million uninsured people lining up for care,” McCarthy said. “Or when your nanny doesn’t show up. Or when your substitute teacher shows up sick and gets your kids sick … this is public health.”

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 22 million people would lose care under the Senate proposal.

The COB reported that the BCRA would reduce the federal deficit by $321 billion over the next 10 years. It would also eliminate taxes on the wealthy that were used to pay for expanding coverage and do away with mandates requiring insurance and associated penalties.

At a board meeting following the rally, Supervisor Kathryn Barger — the sole Republican on the nonpartisan board — said legislators on both sides of the aisle believe “the ACA as written has flaws,” but praised the work Katz has done to expand coverage.

“We’ve done very well under the ACA,” Barger said.

Both Solis and Hahn called the Senate proposal heartless, while Kuehl proposed a new slogan for the Senate bill.

“The slogan for the proposed plan may as well be `Make America sick again,”’ Kuehl said. “If this terrible plan passes, Medicaid, as we know it, will be virtually gutted and L.A. County will be ground zero for the plan’s deadly consequences.”
Ridley-Thomas said the board was willing to push back.

“We will not retreat. We will not relent. We will fight for the people of this county because healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” Ridley-Thomas said.

Metro Urges Public to Report Harassment

April 17, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

Responding to a survey that found that nearly one-fourth of riders were victims of unwanted sexual behavior on buses and trains, Metro introduced a public-information campaign Thursday aimed at combating such harassment.

The “It’s Off Limits” campaign will encourage victims and witnesses to report sexual harassment to sheriff’s officials using a hotline or a smartphone app.

Several Metro board members — including county Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl — took part in a news conference at Union Station to unveil the campaign, which will include advertisements on buses and trains and on transit video monitors. The ads encourage people to report sexual harassment to the sheriff’s (888) 950-SAFE (7233) hotline or by using the LA Metro Transit Watch safety app, which includes a feature that allows the user to snap a photo of a perpetrator.

“With a description of the suspect and the time and place of the assault, sheriff’s investigators have a better opportunity to make an arrest of a sexual criminal,” according to sheriff’s Transit Policing Division Chief Ronine Anda.

A ridership survey of 22,604 riders conducted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and released in February found that 22 percent had been victims of unwanted sexual behavior, including touching, exposure or inappropriate comments in the previous six months.

Metro officials noted that its customer relations office and Sheriff’s Department received just 99 complaints in 2014. Of the complaints, 62 were for unwanted touching and 31 people reported indecent exposure. The complaints resulted in 20 arrests.

“The rate of reporting is woefully low and indicates that transit customers do not have faith that such behavior can be addressed,” Kuehl said.

County to Review Contracting Policy

January 30, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday directed staffers to review how sole source contracts get awarded and consider new limits on the use of no-bid agreements.

The board approved the review after Supervisor Hilda Solis said the Sheriff’s Department request — on Tuesday’s agenda — to renew a contract with DataWorks Plus for its digital mug shot technology was an opportunity to step back and re-evaluate the way things are done.

The department had asked for approval to extend the contract for another seven years.

“Sole source agreements should be the exception and not the rule,” Solis said. “I understand people get comfortable and familiar with existing vendors but that can lead to exclusion and a lack of transparency.”

Current policy typically limits no-bid contracts to items or services that are only available from one source, like proprietary technology, or in emergency situations where there is no time for a bidding process.

According to Solis and fellow Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, sole source contracts have led to higher costs for the county because of a lack of competition.

“By circumventing the competitive solicitation process, this practice effectively precludes many vendors, especially new, small and/or minority or women-owned businesses from competing for county contracts,” Solis said.

The board directed the Sheriff’s Department to solicit bids for a mug shot system and approved renewal of the DataWorks contract for only four years.

The board also directed the county’s interim chief executive officer, the interim director of the Internal Services Department and the director of Public Works to review the sole use agreement policy now in place and report back on how best to limit the use of no-bid contracts.

Proposed Merger of County Health Services Decried

January 15, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

A proposal to consolidate the county’s public health, mental health and health services departments drew fire from mental health advocates and others Tuesday.

Supervisor Michael Antonovich proposed the consolidation as a way to “enhance patient care and access” and “streamline bureaucratic processes.”

Dozens of mental health advocates argued that consolidating services would ultimately short-change mentally ill patients.

“Large health systems have not typically provided enough focus on mental health,’ said Brittney Weissman, executive director of the Los Angeles County Council of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

When mental health services were previously grouped with general medical care, “mental health became a stepchild,” she said.

Many who said they live with mental illness praised the Department of Mental Health for helping them dramatically change their lives.

Some opposed the plan outright, while others urged the board to get feedback from stakeholders, invoking the slogan “Nothing about us without us.”

“We all agree about having stakeholders in the process,” Antonovich said.

Dr. Jonathan Fielding, who headed the Department of Public Health for 16 years, warned that if his old department became a division of the Department of Health Services, it would “jeopardize the health of Angelenos” as “public health has a fundamentally different mission than DHS.”

Still, Fielding said it was “well worth considering” an umbrella agency over all three departments to promote coordination and collaboration.

The Department of Public Health is responsible for managing outbreaks of communicable diseases; runs programs to promote health goals such as childhood vaccination; and inspects restaurants and nursing homes. It is designed to serve all 10 million county residents, Fielding told the board, rather than the roughly 10 percent of residents that make use of county clinics and hospitals run by DHS.

The union representing county healthcare workers signaled its potential support, calling consolidation a “bold idea.”

“Done right,” the change could cut through bureaucratic red tape and improve patient care, said Bob Schoonover, president of Service Employees International Union Local 721.

Supervisors Hilda Solis, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Sheila Kuehl each expressed support for breaking down walls between departments.

Schoonover voiced his confidence in Dr. Mitchell Katz, who runs DHS and could be chosen to lead an umbrella agency. No permanent replacement has yet been hired for Fielding, who retired last year.

Dr. Marvin Southard, who has run the Department of Mental Health since 1998, said he would work to make sure that Los Angeles County remained a “national leader in providing for hope, wellness and recovery” in whatever organizational structure the board put in place.

Katz told the board he envisioned “three independent departments working together,” each with its own budget. He said no jobs should be lost as a result of the new structure.

In an interview with City News Service, Katz offered more details.

The three departments would work “as equals … each helping each other to do a better job,” Katz said.

Staffers would be more likely to collaborate to solve problems if they were part of a single agency with a common set of priorities, he said.

“We don’t have to shake everything up,” said the DHS director, but he pointed to substance abuse as a problem that typically requires attention from all three departments.

One  ”compelling” statistic, Katz said, is that those suffering from serious mental illness have a life expectancy roughly 20 years shorter than non-sufferers. This is true even though they typically die not from suicide, but medical causes, he said.

Supervisor Don Knabe stressed that the proposal amounted to a “look-see,” saying he had fielded many calls about the issue by telling constituents to “take a deep breath.”

The board directed a working group to report back in 60 days with a potential structure for consolidation, a timeline for implementation and drawbacks to integration. The group was asked to gather input from various stakeholders.

At Ridley-Thomas’ urging, the group will consider merging the Sheriff’s Department’s medical services bureau, as well.

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