Calif.’s Public Hospitals Provided $1.6 Billion in Treatment to Uninsured in 2003

May 10, 2004

California’s 24 public hospitals reportedly provided $1.6 billion in treatment to the uninsured last year, representing 55 percent of the care to Californians who lack health care coverage.

As the main providers of medical treatment to the uninsured,
public hospitals join with representatives from health care, business,
labor and philanthropy in shedding light on the crisis of the
uninsured, during Cover the Uninsured Week, May 10-16.

Today, nearly 44 million Americans lack health insurance. Of
those, 6.3 million are Californians – 21.2 percent of state
residents. Most of them seek medical care at a public hospital.

“Every day of every week, California’s public hospitals treat the
uninsured, as part of their mission to serve all those in need,” said
Denise Martin, CEO of the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems. “The medical safety net plays a crucial
role by providing health care to everyone, from the most vulnerable
members of our society to the most privileged who find themselves in
need of trauma or emergency services.”

Though a tiny fraction of the approximately 500 hospitals
statewide, public hospitals reportedly provide the lion’s share of care to
California’s uninsured. They also operate more than 60 percent of the
top-level trauma centers, train half of the state’s new doctors,
provide more than 60 percent of the burn care and psychiatric
emergency services, serve as hubs for disaster and bio-terrorism
preparedness and deliver many other services specialized for local
community needs.

As the uninsured population continues to expand, the demand for
public hospital services goes up. Unfortunately, the rising tide of
non-paying patients reportedly is not adequately matched by government funds to support the public hospitals that provide this critical care. California’s public hospitals are struggling with budget reductions at the county, state and federal level.

As the nation turns its attention to the crisis of the uninsured
this week – and these days virtually anyone could find himself or
herself without health coverage, in need of medical care – CAPH is urging Californians to consider the preservation of the safety net a top

The California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems
represents 22 acute care public hospitals and 6 county health systems in 17 counties across California.

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