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L.A. County-run hospitals could expand free and discounted care

Hospitals run by Los Angeles County could make free care available to more of their financially strapped patients under a new proposal aimed at expanding relief from medical bills.

County health officials said the proposed changes, which also include deeper discounts for other eligible patients, could ultimately benefit thousands of people in the county, yet are unlikely to have a significant effect on hospital finances.

The move comes amid ongoing concern across California about residents putting off or forgoing medical care due to the expense, despite state efforts to expand access to charity care and make sure patients know about financial assistance.

Under the proposed rules, free care would be available to eligible L.A. County residents with incomes under 200% of the federal poverty level, or $60,000 for a family of four under current guidelines. The existing cutoff is 138% of the poverty level, which amounts to $41,400 for a family of four.



Kamala Harris has a history of healthcare merger crackdowns

“Most hospitals aren’t held to a specific amount of charity care spending. However, California law allows the attorney general to put conditions on merger and acquisition approvals of not for-profit hospitals to ensure they continue to serve indigent populations and don’t cut off certain specialties. Harris was one of the first attorneys general to implement 10-year conditions, which was important to consumer advocates, said Jen Flory, policy advocate with the Western Center on Law & Poverty.

“It was something the purchasers did not like,” she said. “They were like, ‘Why is this going on for so long?’ But her staff was really attentive to all the details and the things that are going to matter to the community, whether it’s charity care or Medicaid managed care.”

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