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Role of Local Government in Medical Care

November 06, 2012
Group owner Richard Martine

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Role of Local Government in Medical Care

By: Richard Martine   Post Date : November 06, 2012
Healthcare is widely considered an issue that the federal government should deal with since it is an issue for the entire country. The federal government currently regulates Medicare and Medicaid and is often trying to pass healthcare legislation that will hopefully take care of one problem without creating another.

Regulation of the healthcare industry does not end with the federal government. Due to the system of government in the U.S., the federal government is allowed to take a broad but limited role. The details are often up to individual states (as long as they fall within federal guidelines).

With the federal and state governments so involved in regulation what is the role of local government in medical care?

Many local municipalities will have their health department. It is not intended to counteract what the state level department does, but to react to the specific needs of their community.

The primary role of local government in medical care has nothing to do with regulation or policy determination, but with the delivery of services and the public health. Local municipalities are responsible for things that will improve public health and/or prevent illness like monitoring of health issues, sanitation, disease control (i.e., pest and/or vermin control), environmental protection, and the delivery of personal health services.

Delivering healthcare to the community takes its toll on the budget of local governments. Each year it is estimated that they spend around $85 billion on healthcare services, roughly 1/8 of local government expenditures. Much of it goes to operating hospitals, employee or retiree healthcare, public health services, and a portion of Medicaid.

The exact role of local government in medical care will differ from state to state. In some cases local governments are heavily involved with some counties and towns owning and operating acute care hospitals. In Texas, for example, 160 local governments own and operate hospitals. Maryland, on the other hand, does not have a single locally owned healthcare facility.

As the federal government continues to work to reform healthcare the role that local governments can take is something that may be helpful to consider. With the implementation and execution of any reform being done at the local level eventually, including local officials in the decision making process could help streamline procedures. This would in turn keep unnecessary delays and issues from developing that would serve no purpose other than to keep those in need of services from receiving them.

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