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“Most people in California don’t even realize that this state has only 1.9 hospital beds per 1,000 people,” says Alan Weinstock an insurance broker at www.MedicareSupplementPlans.com. And he’s right according to a recently released report from the California HealthCare Foundation which indicates that California has 512 hospitals licensed to provide care in the state.

The report which examines the state’s general acute care (GAC) hospitals shows that the number of hospitals and beds decreased between 2001 and 2007 while the state’s population grew. Californians who are 80 and older, Medicare beneficiaries or not, use the hospital services the most.

In fact of the ten most populous states, California is in the worst shape. Two of the most populous states – New York and Pennsylvania – have 3.2 beds per 1,000 people. While the seven others – Ohio, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Michigan and Texas – have between 2.4 and 2.9 beds per 1,000 people.

Unfortunately some of the difficulty has been the number of hospitals that have closed in California over the last ten years. Over 50 emergency rooms closed in California between 1998 and 2007 (Los Angeles Times). And many hospitals lament that due to the large volume of Medicare and Medi-Cal patients, patients on managed care or the indigent who don’t pay it is difficult to stay financially solvent.

Another reason for California hospital closure and, therefore, fewer hospital beds, is the number of hospital projects statewide that have been delayed due to issues with compliance with state seismic regulations. However, there are positive reasons for the lower bed-to-patient ratio in the state.

First, the California HealthCare Foundation report notes that California has fewer admissions per 1,000 people compared with the rest of the nation. In fact, while the national admission rate dropped from 119 to 117 between 2001 and 2007, in California admission rates dropped from 98 to 90.

“The report also noted that there has been a shift to more outpatient care which helped slow the growth in inpatient utilization,” notes Alan. “That’s especially good news for Medicare beneficiaries who have Medicare Part B as it may be an indication of a decline in serious illnesses.” Medicare Part B pays for outpatient services like X-rays, emergency room visits, partial hospitalization services in hospital outpatient departments and community mental health centers.

For California seniors who are looking for the best Medicare supplement plan for their current needs, there are answers at http://www.MedicareSupplementPlans.com, a website designed to provide seniors with the opportunity to compare rates, plans and benefits from several prominent insurance companies.

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