Yesterday morning, Governor Jerry Brown released his 2013-2014 proposed state budget. I applaud the Governor’s focus on fiscal discipline – the next two years will be a ‘make or break’ time for our State. Sacramento must resist the urge to spend money we do not have, which would only put us right back in the budget shambles we have faced the past few years.
Governor Brown’s suggestion that he may reduce the $2 billion the State gives to counties to care for the uninsured is very premature. We do not yet understand the full impact of the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but we do know that Los Angeles County will remain the safety net for hundreds of thousands of people who will remain uninsured.
Implementing the sweeping changes to our health care system that will come from the ACA is at the top of our urgent priorities. While we diligently prepare our systems and operations for the influx of new patients, we are also entering the new world of a competitive marketplace. We must begin to tell the story of the County healthcare system to those who will now face choice in selecting their healthcare provider. That is why on Tuesday, I will be asking our CEO, in conjunction with our Heath Services and Public Social Services departments, our labor unions, USC and UCLA, and other partners to develop a comprehensive strategy to explain the County’s public-private health care system to our residents and potential enrollees. I would ask that Sacramento do everything it can to support us in our efforts to prepare for the ACA, rather than cutting our funding prematurely.
Our County and this State face many challenges in the year ahead. Though our economy is showing signs of improvement and we are not facing the massive deficits of the last few years, we must demonstrate fiscal discipline and, as the Governor stated, be absolutely committed to living within our means.