• County to Spend About $283 Million on Electronic Health Record Keeping

    LOS ANGELES (CNS) -Los Angeles County will need to spend an estimated
    $283 million over a five-year period to convert paper healthcare records to
    electronic ones, the director of the county’s hospital system said today.
    The shift from paper to digital records is required under the Affordable
    Care Act and is ultimately expected to improve care and save money.

    About $100 million of the conversion cost is expected to come from
    federal incentives. The county is hoping to fund its share through long- and
    short-term borrowing, which is expected to cost about $30 million in annual
    principal and interest payments, according to Department of Health Services
    Director Dr. Mitchell Katz.
    That $30 million amounts to “a relatively small variance’ within the
    department’s estimated $3.6 billion budget, Katz said.
    Katz presented his updated budget forecast for 2012-13 to the board
    today. Though he cautioned that the numbers were still preliminary, they
    anticipate a $73.4 million shortfall, due in large part to rising contributions
    required to fund employee retirement accounts.
    Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the department used to anticipate
    deficits in the hundreds of millions of dollars and he would be pleased if
    Katz’ estimates held.
    Katz responded that he was confident the budget could ultimately be
    balanced without service cuts. The department should end this fiscal year with
    a surplus of $9.6 million.
    One solution to next year’s deficit could be an increase in rates
    charged to the state to offset the cost of in-home care for the elderly. That
    could generate an estimated $54 million in revenue.
    Another option under discussion is amending a waiver that governs
    reimbursements under the federal Medicare and Medicaid system for individuals
    covered by the Ryan White HIV-AIDS Program. As those patients transition into
    coverage newly available under Healthy Way L.A., payments under an amended
    waiver could be worth as much as $43 million.
    The proposed waiver amendment is pending approval by the federal Centers
    for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
    Given the amount of money at stake, Yaroslavsky asked that the issue be
    added to the board’s agenda for May meetings in Washington, D.C.

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