Commission split on health care 

A local commission has delayed a vote on three options for the fate of two local health care districts: dissolution, combining and expanding the two or leaving the districts to operate without interruption, even after several commission members dismissed the first two options as unmanageable.

Dissolving the Sequoia and Peninsula health care districts or combining and expanding them to include the whole county is impractical, said Supervisor Rich Gordon, a Local Agency Formation Commission member. He cites long-term contracts with associated hospitals and the need to go to voters for approval for the infeasibility of those options.

"I’m convinced that given the histories of these districts that we’re stuck with the status quo," Gordon said at Wednesday’s commission meeting.

The districts, which were formed to levy property taxes to build Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City and Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, have since turned over the management of those hospitals to nonprofit, private corporations. The districts have now taken on new roles funding clinics in their jurisdictions and helping to pay for health programs such as children’s’ health insurance.

Sequoia Healthcare District serves about 222,000 residents. Peninsula Health Care District serves about 194,000 local residents from San Bruno to San Mateo.

Supervisor Jerry Hill, another Local Agency Formation Commission member, backed down Wednesday from an earlier idea to combine the districts and add the taxes they collect — estimated to be a combined $9.5 million a year — to state and county money and help pay for universal health care.

Instead, Hill called for representatives of the districts to make an effort to broaden the districts’ role in the county’s effort to care for the uninsured.

The county’s public hospital, San Mateo Medical Center, bears about 90 percent of county indigent care costs and has a $50-$60 million annual subsidy from the general fund going back several years.

Hill wants the districts to partner in funding health insurance under a plan being worked out by the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Adult Health Care Coverage Expansion, Hill said.

The Local Agency Formation Commission plans to hold a final vote on the three health care district options at its May meeting.

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