By Margaret Carrero

LOS ANGELES ( — Los Angeles County health officials were expected to give a progress report Tuesday on how the county plans to implement federal health care reform laws.

KNX 1070’s Margaret Carrero reports the Department of Health Services faces significant challenges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

With just over one year before ACA goes into effect, Anish Mahajan, Director of System Planning Improvement, said the county is preparing for a potential shift in how it services patients who currently depend on it for care once they become eligible for insurance.

Officials estimate that about 200,000 low-income residents – about 70 percent – will become eligible for Medicaid or state-funded insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014.

“They can continue to receive their care with us, but they also could then take their insurance and go to other providers,” said Mahajan.

Another challenge the county faces is the possibility that federal reform will also result in a drastic cut to funding for county safety nets, according to Mahajan.

But with a little over 1.3 million county residents expected to remain uninsured even after the Affordable Care Act takes effect, Mahajan said officials need to plan on how to retain those patients.

“It becomes even more important that we become as efficient as we can and hold onto the patients that are able to generate revenue for us,” he said.

A County Health Services report released on Nov. 26 (PDF) outlined steps taken to maintain the number of paying patients, including ending block appointments, installing a disease management registry, and increasing the number of primary care appointments.

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